My sister and I had a big fight years ago. She said something mean to me. Then I said something mean back. Now she will not talk to me at all even though I keep trying to make contact. Is there anything I can do to get through to her?


Try an old-fashioned, handwritten letter. Even if you have done one before, try again—personal letters have a touch that no other form of communication can match. Write to her to say that you blame yourself for the fight. Say you were totally off base and did not handle the situation well even though it sounds as if you were both equally at fault. Taking more than half the blame this way should knock down your sister’s defenses. Then add that you are not happy at having been estranged for so long. Say that life goes by quickly—refer to your kids not knowing one another or whatever specific circumstances apply. Clearly make the point that time is of the essence. Extend the olive branch. Say that you really would like to have a chance to talk to her and then arrange a visit if at all possible. Emphasize that continuing to fight does not do anything for anybody. Will this work? Hopefully, yes, but not necessarily. Sometimes all you can do is give it your best shot—but sometimes that isn’t enough. Some people build their lives around putting other people at their service—hurting and controlling become a way of living. Once adults get to that stage, they are not good people to hang out with. Sometimes people who refuse to accept peace overtures have a need to hold on to their anger or resentment, and there is nothing you can do. And sometimes what seems like a breakthrough does not last. You may make a connection, talk to your sister and perhaps even get together with her, but then she may leave and resume the hurtful silence and withdrawal. If that happens, there is nothing more you can do—you’ll just have to accept that she knows where you are if she wants to get back in touch.