Many Americans Haven’t Seen a Close Family Member in Over a Decade

New poll shares some troubling details, while those committed to seeing close relatives find a way to do it no matter what

A recent study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Pit Boss Grills evaluated 2,000 people with the intention of getting American families to reunite by cooking and grilling tasty delights.

Of those surveyed, 22 percent reported never having held a family reunion, ever — and 74 percent said they’ve lost touch with a close family member with whom they’d like to reunite.

Today’s conflicting schedules and a lack of time even for the nuclear family unit can be challenging. For some people, embarking on a journey for a family reunion can be daunting, expensive and unrealistic.

The lack of family reunions isn’t directly proportionate to losing touch with loved ones.

In an era of abundant technology options, there’s really no excuse to not keep in touch if that is indeed the end goal.  Many families experience riffs over the years. Some are easily repairable, while others resemble World War III.

Related: The Rejuvenating Reunion

A family reunion is a great venue to reconnect with those who’ve lost touch; however, it may not be the best environment for those with issues better suited for a private conversation, Dr. Melody Smith, Ph.D., told LifeZette.

Smith, founder of Integrative Counseling & Hypnosis Associates in Boca Raton, Florida, has been counseling individuals and families for over 15 years. “Some people may not even remember why they’re estranged from a family member,” she said.

That’s how far back and deep some of these disconnected relationships may go.

Focusing on the positive and enjoyable features of a reunion may be the little push in deciding to attend.

A man in Boston, Massachusetts, said, “My sister and I stopped speaking well over 10 years ago. I remember a string of incidents; however, I mostly remember the hurt feelings. We both said terrible, vindictive words to each other.”

He added,  “After all of these years, it’s not so much what happened but the residual feelings that remain in my heart and my gut. I believe a reconciliation would take one of two approaches; wipe the slate clean and never discuss it again, or talk about the wounds, to see if we can mutually apologize with sincerity and move on.”

Either way, he believes attending a family reunion wouldn’t be in his near future.

Related: De-Stress Over the Big Family Get-Together

Some families make reunions a priority and thoroughly enjoy reconnecting, sharing stories, and enjoying great food together. More than 58 percent of Americans reported being excited and looked forward to seeing everyone in their family.

Nearly every subject in the study agreed that good food was “essential” to a family reunion (84 percent), with grilling (42 percent) and games (33 percent) being the most popular activities at any get-together. (One needs the remember the context under which the survey was done.)

Focusing on the positive and enjoyable features of a reunion may be the necessary little push in deciding to attend. A woman from Providence, Rhode Island, recalled, ”Even as we grew apart, had our own families and yes, our disagreements, there was a closeness in getting together over the summer,” adding, “Having a huge clambake, playing bocce ball, and drinking a glass of wine (or several) cured everything.”

Smith provided some guidelines for a happy and smooth reunion.

  • Invite everyone.
  • Allow everyone to speak.
  • Do not talk behind others’ backs, whether they’re in attendance or not.
  • Have an exit strategy; it’s essential to express feelings graciously to your host(s) and let them know why you’re leaving.

Families are complicated, some more than others.

Being connected is a personal choice — and one that shouldn’t have judgment by others.

As the adage goes, “There’s one side, the other side, and in the middle, the truth.”

Christine King, based in Boynton Beach, Florida, is founder and CEO of  Your Best Fit, a health and wellness company that provides fitness, nutrition, and design and management services.