What to write when trying to reconcile with a loved one

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Being estranged from someone hurts, plain and simple. And in today’s society, it’s increasingly common. According to a recent study by Cornell University, 27% of Americans are estranged from a family member—meaning that tens of millions of people are disconnected from a relative. And this doesn’t factor in those who are estranged from loved ones who aren’t part of their family.

Sometimes, this separation exists because of issues of safety—in cases of abuse and harm, one would understandably not want to continue or rekindle a relationship. But other times, one might feel a longing to start up a relationship again without really having the tools to do so.

In this article, we’ll dig deeper into why estrangement happens and give you some tools to reach out to someone with whom you long to be back in touch.

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Why Does Estrangement Happen?  

There are many reasons why an estrangement may develop. In his book, “Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them,” Karl Pillemer shares the results of hundreds of interviews with people who’ve been estranged from family, and some common themes emerged: Childhood trauma, lingering hostility from divorce, money and inheritance, and value and lifestyle differences are a few of the key reasons why estrangement happens.

In recent years, both the political landscape and the effects of social distancing have also played a huge role in causing deterioration to happen in relationships.

In addition, it’s worth mentioning that there are some separations that are a rift—meaning one person intentionally has cut off communication with another—and some that are more a matter of drifting apart. An example of this is when two friends get so busy that they don’t have time to connect anymore, but there was no incident which caused them to actively decide not to speak to each other.

Tip: If you’ve drifted apart from a friend or relative because you’ve been busy, there are some easy ways to reconnect in this article.

Why Reconnect?  

Again, in cases of abuse, cutting ties is necessary for safety reasons. But in other cases, estrangement can affect the mental health of everyone involved. First, there’s the ongoing hurt that accompanies it—it’s not a one-time event but rather a hurt that’s spread out over time. Holidays and family get-togethers, which are usually joyous occasions, can serve as painful reminders of this hurt.

Often, those who are estranged carry shame over the situation, and the concealment of it causes them stress. They aren’t able to speak openly about their hurt. There’s a level of grief involved, and unlike grief over a death, there aren’t communities where they can share their feelings and get help navigating them.

Estrangement creates uncertainty in one’s life, and there’s no real closure to the situation—again, causing more stress and sadness.

According to Pillimer’s survey, most people said they reconciled and reconnected to try to mitigate these negative mental health effects. They did it for themselves and their own healing. They described a weight being lifted and a movement to a more peaceful state of mind.

But beyond the benefits to your mental health, there are a lot of other reasons you might want to get back in touch with someone. Milestone events like weddings and graduations might make you realize that you’re missing out on the important moments in someone’s life—or if you’re the one having the milestone, you might wish that your loved one was there with you.

As parents get older, their kids might want to get back in touch with them “before it’s too late” to share the remaining years with them. As you move from one life stage to another—for instance, going from being childless to having kids of your own—your circumstances might make you reconsider who you want to share that new stage with.

Tips for Starting the Conversation  

Regardless of why you choose to get back in touch with someone, it’s important to remember a few things as you start the conversation.

Don’t rehash the past. It’s likely that you and the person from whom you’re estranged have very different narratives about the same set of events. That is not something that can easily, if ever, be resolved. Bringing those things up can cause more anger and frustration, so try to avoid doing so.

Instead, talk about what you miss. Let the person know all the things that you miss about them, whether it’s personality traits or things you used to routinely do together. If you chose to reconnect in person, doing an activity or hobby that you both love is a great way to focus on something positive.

Pick the right time to reconnect. The “when” of reconnecting is important: You want to catch the person at a time when they’ll be most receptive to hearing from you. Big occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries, are a nice time to reconnect in a low-pressure way. However, you’ll want to be careful to keep the focus on the person being celebrated. If you have a shared memory of a certain time of year, sending a note at that time and recalling the positive memory is another way to start things off on the right foot.

Leave space for their response. Remember, reaching out is only the first step, whether it’s through a written note or a phone call. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make it perfect—just get the ball rolling. Keeping things brief and not going into too many details is a nice way to leave things open-ended and invite a positive response.

Tip: Sincere compliments that show how well you know someone are a great way to break the ice. Check out this article called “What To Write In a Friendship Card” for ideas on how to give an authentic compliment.

What to Write In A Note or Card  

Here are some things you can write in a note or card to an estranged friend or family member. Remember, the goal is to start the conversation. You don’t have to say everything, and you definitely don’t have to say it perfectly.

  • I know we haven’t spoken in a long time, but I wanted to let you know that I think of you often.
  • I miss seeing your face. Would love to get together sometime if that’s alright with you.
  • Christmas always reminds me of all the fun times we had growing up. I sure miss you. I’d love to meet up with you sometime during the holidays if you’re up for it.
  • Today is a big day for you, and you’ve earned it. Just wanted to say that I’m thinking of you and cheering for you.
  • Much has changed for both of us over the years, and while a lot has happened in our past, I really would love for us to move forward, together.
  • We haven’t been in each other’s lives much, but you’re never far from my mind. Sending you love.
  • Any chance you’d want to meet up sometime? I really miss you.
  • This time of year always reminds me of [insert favorite shared memory here]. I’d love to catch up sometime.


We hope these tips can help you patch things up with a loved one in a way that feels healthy and positive for both of you. Best of luck on your reconnection journey!

  • Credits:
  • Jake Gahr contributed to the research for this article.