Dear Annie: My younger brother lives many states away. Sadly, about five years ago, he decided that I had caused him many sorrows and pains, so he chose to stop contact. He said little about what I had done or said to cause that decision.
I miss him and his family a lot and have tried to reconcile. He simply does not respond. I have apologized a lot, even not knowing how I hurt him. He did say that I hurt him badly, but he is hurting me badly now. And after five years, I recall very little.
I feel sad for myself and for the rest of his family, especially at our age. Both of us are not in the best of health, and I do get concerned about the death of one of us. And I miss his family a lot, especially my nieces and nephews, who have more or less stayed silent, too. I have not been invited to family weddings. I think stubbornness runs in our family. I am not sure that I can do anything else to effect a change, so I just pray. I am embarrassed to say much to other relatives and mutual friends. Just let your readers know that mending such relationships is a very wise thing to do. -- Missing My Brother
Dear Missing: I agree that one should mend family relationships whenever possible. I only have your side of the story here (one of the tricky things about writing this column), so I can't comment on your brother's decision. However, I can say that you should never apologize for something when you don't even know what you're apologizing for -- because you can't possibly mean it, and people can see through that type of apology.
Take a good, long look at your behavior. Were you overly critical of him? Did you insist on bringing up politics or another contentious subject? Did you try to control him or make demands of him? Those are reasons I've heard in the past from people who have cut family members off. If you still don't know what you might have done, you can tell him as much and again say you'd really like to talk to him and try to make this right. In the end, it's his decision. But try to find some peace in prayer and the knowledge that you've done all you can.
Dear Annie: Boy, did the letter from "Exhausted by the Onslaught" hit home. It is no surprise to me that 57 percent of people surveyed reported "significant stress" about the current political climate. It has divided family and friends beyond belief. I'm not going to get into the politics, but what I've found is it helps to turn off the TV, get off the internet and take a break from all of it. For those who need to know the news like me, I suggest one half-hour of national news of your choice once a day. When it comes to TV and the internet, look for positive and happier subjects to view. Even my therapist has suggested this. Trust me; it works! -- Controlling the Onslaught in Florida
Dear Controlling: Those are all great habits that I wholeheartedly endorse. Glad you've managed to control the onslaught rather than let it control you.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.