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The Empty Chair: A Message of Hope

January 10, 2011

Families endure all manner of losses in their wake:  death, separation, illness. The losses that are often the hardest to bear are loss due to estrangement. And the time of year that is often the most difficult to bear these losses are just after the holidays.

One suggestion I make to the families I work with is to focus on the fullness of what a relationship was to them, before whatever fracture had them step away.  To recall in as much detail as possible how a given relationship contributed to them and to their family when the relationship was intact.  I ask them to try to ‘strain out’ the painful memories during this process and really focus on the joyful and tender moments.  And then I suggest that they set a new table in their memories – and at that table to set places for all of the people in their lives and to picture them around their table – and to then set place settings in front of ‘empty chairs’ for those people who have moved away from their table but who when they return, even if just in memory, will find a space and a table setting for them.

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