Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide – Part 4

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide
Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide

This is the fourth post in our Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide series.

by Seth Eisenberg

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Thanksgiving is a time that families and dear friends come together in gratitude and celebration for the blessings in our lives. No matter how much you’re thankful for, focusing on gratitude while sitting across the table from a relative you’re mad at can leave even the most perfectly prepared recipes no match for your commitment to a speedy getaway.

Couples are not the only ones who find themselves caught up in seemingly irreconcilable differences. Siblings, parents and children, and others who once shared close relationships may also find themselves estranged, distant and divided. While sometimes those wounds never heal, for many others Thanksgiving is a chance to set aside differences on behalf of collective gratitude for the gift of life and, even in the face of anger, sadness or disappointment, each other.

Like many others, family estrangements have played a central role in my own life. Much of what drew me to the field of relationship and marriage education nearly 15 years ago was the hope that the skills and experience would help me create healthier relationships than those that have seemed so tragic and disappointing in the life of my family. Each day, waking up with the most amazing wife in the world and the three greatest sons a father could ever ask for, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned.

Teaching classes has also shown me countless examples of the values – good and bad – we typically pass down from generation to generation. I’ve seen many families bonded together by a commitment to actively stand by each other no matter what. Others have clearly shown that family ties are fragile at best. Whether your parents became estranged from your earliest years, your step-brother ran off to a cult for 25 years, your brother borrowed the college trust funds, your uncle swiped the retirement account, your sister wants nothing to do with the family, or your mother seems eager to sabotage your every good deed, I’ve realized it’s up to each of us to choose for ourselves how to handle the relationships we most cherish. Tools such as John Gray’s “feeling letter” described in his book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, are a good place to begin when it comes to letting go of grudges.

Grudges weigh us down, taking away energy and creativity that’s much better directed to connecting with others to create success, joy and fulfillment in our lives.

Marriage and relationship education classes teach a modified version of John Gray’s feeling letter to help participants let go of grudges. Letting go of a grudge doesn’t mean you forget the wrongs others have done or that you’ve chosen to be close to each other again. Although I’ve seen that happen many times. Regardless, it is is a valuable opportunity to release the energy of negative emotions in order to make room for positive feelings and experiences.

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving or an invited guest, if you’re expecting to see someone at the table that you’re holding a grudge against, try writing a letter following these sentence stems, completing as many that fit for you in each section as possible. Remember, you won’t be sending this letter. This is for you only.

Dear ….

I am writing this letter to let go of a grudge I’ve been holding.

ANGER & BLAME

I resent…

I’m outraged by…

I’m fed up with…

I can’t stand…

I can’t forgive you for…

I needed…

HURT & SADNESS

I feel hurt by…

I feel sad because…

I am disappointed that…

I feel awful because…

I want…

FEAR & INSECURITY

I’m confused because…

I am afraid that…

I feel embarrassed / ashamed that…

What scares me is…

I’m worried about…

I want…

GUILT & RESPONSIBILITY

I regret…

I may be to blame for…

I feel sympathy for…

I didn’t mean to…

Please forgive me for…

I wish…

FORGIVENESS, UNDERSTANDING, KINDNESS

I appreciate…

I realize…

I value…

I love…

I like…

I hope…

After you’ve written and signed your letter, you can read it again to yourself before ceremonially (and very carefully) burning it or tearing it into small pieces as you bid farewell to the negative feelings you were holding inside.

Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.

Additional Resources

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide, Part One

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide, Part Two

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide, Part Three

Thanksgiving Recipes

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

PAIRS Foundation

Marriage Education Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide

Seth Eisenberg View All →

See http://www.pairs.com/setheisenberg

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