Soriano: How do you say sorry to someone who has died?

·3 min read

“Papa and I often fought but today, he is gone. How do I say sorry now? It is too late. I never thought that this day would happen. Papa was healthy and I only learned that he suffered from bouts of depression after I left the family business. Then he had a subtle pain in his chest, and before medical help could arrive, he was pronounced dead. Now, what do I do? I can tell you, in many of our arguments, I was right but it all sounds like a nightmare now. Oh, God, this guilt will never go away. How does one apologize from someone who has died even if one was right?

What I just shared came from a visibly shaken and remorseful son. This story does not happen most of the time. It was highlighted only to bring to your attention the “what if something like this happens?”

Reconcile with whom you have a problem

Why not reconcile every deep-seated resentment with your spouse, parents or siblings now? Why wait for the day when the unexpected will happen? Let us look at this from another perspective. Why not avoid all the blaming and the heated debate totally? Why not bury the arguments before they morph into some form of injurious conflict? Because once arguments begin, pride and ego assume full control. Opposing parties will prove that one is right and both sides will go to any length just to prove that either party is right. The result is never a victory. Nobody wins in any emotionally charged, ego-centered, finger-pointing discussion. It is always a defeat for all parties, the entire family included and it severely affects relationships that can translate to harmful and sometimes destructive behavior.

Another crucial damaging element in arguments is non-listening. No one wants to listen to the other party. That fuels bad blood. The best approach is — never to argue, and if an argument begins, try to stop it by all means necessary. If you acknowledge your mistake and apologize for it right from the start, do it. If the argument can be deflected with some sense of humor, explore that route also.

Ill feelings never help. They are the small bubbles and they often lie below the water level but with regular clashes they become little daggers. As the bubbles become bigger, they manifest on the surface. In a dysfunctional family, these bubbles represent the constant infighting and they slowly take away the love from living. It makes living miserable. For families wanting to live harmoniously on this earth, reconcile now.

To continue the process of reconciliation from last week’s A to C list, let me add the following helpful tips:

d. Be fair and objective but firm. Although easier said than done, family members must try to be objective and void of emotion when talking to the other party. Dominant, assertive emotions or power imbalances are commonly experienced during family conflict, as we are more closely invested in these relationships. However, in order to be able to express and reason effectively, it is important that emotions do not cloud your judgment with anger or resentment. This will enable you to listen and not just react.

e. Respect each other’s point of view. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings, beliefs and opinions. Agree to disagree when the issue cannot be resolved or when no common ground is established. Remember, others are not required to always agree with you on everything.

f. For context, embrace Family Values. Personality conflicts are one of the biggest challenges in the family and the family business. Conflicts can usually be diffused by embracing the greater good, family values, acceptance, understanding, appropriate action, and professionalism.

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