Responding to Family Catastrophe – Come Together or Drift Apart

It Can Go Either Way (And One Is Better)

In my work, I get to hear lots of stories about families and how they try to deal with preparing for the future together.

For the most part, the situations remain stable for long periods of time and it’s relatively simple to know what to expect going forward from one year to the next.

Sometimes, however, something unexpected hits the family, and it really throws them for a loop, which seriously upsets the equilibrium, and chaos ensues.

This week I want to talk about how some families are able to respond to such a catastrophe in a good way, while for others it can mark the end of positive relationships.

Examples Abound, Never Black and White

Everyone has heard of the various kinds of events that can occur, but today I’m sharing stories of a couple of families with whom I’ve had recent contact, either via my work or though acquaintances.

One involves a business family that suffered a significant and sudden loss of their financial wealth, and who are now trying to come to terms with their new reality.

The other is about a family whose patriarch passed away relatively recently, at far too young an age, and the subsequent effects of the hole in his family that this left, including the straining of relationships that used to be strong.

I want to share some ideas on how both families can hopefully realize how important their attitude will be in how things play out for them.

In short, as I teased in the title, they can either come together and become stronger for each other, or else they can point fingers, give up, and split apart.

Regular readers know which side I come down on.

 

Different Kinds of Grief, On Varying Schedules

Naturally, there’s an element of grief involved in recovering from any kind of disaster that results in a significant loss. And, as we’ve all heard, everyone processes grief in their own way, and on their own schedule.

The types of grief in the two family examples are quite different, as the loss of a person and the loss of financial wealth are not comparable.

But there are possibly more things they have in common than one may realize, especially when a family is left grieving together.

This is where some of the ideas around attitude come in.

 

Responding to Family Catastrophe – Come Together or Drift Apart

Additional Strength and Resources

When speaking with such families in these circumstances I like to offer a perspective that they might not be seeing, where each person can serve a useful purpose to their other family members by providing strength when another is feeling weak.

Because they each process their grief differently, hopefully at least one of them can be strong for the others when needed, and then the others can reciprocate when things are in reverse.

Regular readers know of my dislike for the word “help”, as in “let me help you”, so that’s not exactly what I’m getting at.

I like to look at it from the viewpoint of being a resource for others, the difference being who approaches whom.

I’m not offering to “help” you per se, but I am offering myself as a resource to you, when you decide you want to avail yourself to that.

 

Picking Each Other Up 

Without this becoming a dissertation on the stages of grief, once shock and denial are in the past, then anger, bargaining and depression are likely areas where one family member can help pick up another from time to time, and the burden can be distributed.

The alternative, which is always sad to see, is when these stages lead to family members dragging each other down instead.

An attitude of “this hurt me more than it hurt you” is easy enough to understand, but it’s difficult to see how that’s helpful to anyone.

Responding to Family Catastrophe – Come Together or Drift Apart

Taking the Time to Make the Time for Each Other

My hope for families trying to come out on the other side of tragedy is that they can learn to take the time to make the time for each other.

Simply being there for one another, even if not much is said, can be so much more important than most people realize.

Yes, misery does love company, but one person with a positive attitude can make a huge difference.

Strength in numbers is possible for families, especially when working through the grief of a catastrophe.