Resiliency: The Ingredient for Overcoming Big Change
Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall
Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall
All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again
No matter what … Injury and Illness are painful to all: the patient, family members, friends and colleagues. The situation may entail hospitalization, surgery, treatments, appointments, and (hopefully) recovery. However, the process doesn’t end there. There is relearning, reintegrating, rebuilding. For the family, it will forever be part of their “story.”
Injuries and illnesses can be very difficult to watch and painful to see … especially for children. Johnny’s Dad, who lost his arm in an IED blast, can no longer toss the football with him. Mrs. Gomez, who is at Stage 4 Lymphoma, is too physically weak to get out of bed and make breakfast for the kids before school. These changes systemically affect the entire family and how it functions. Some of these changes are easier to adapt to than others.
Both Visible and Invisible
There are other types of illnesses and injuries that can more difficult to understand because they cannot be seen. From a child’s perspective, his/her parent might seem like an entirely different person; however, there is no obvious explanation for these changes in behavior. For this reason, children often think they are the reason.
Invisible injuries can manifest if many ways, all of which a child and/or spouse can misinterpret:
- TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) – physical and mental fatigue; memory loss; headaches; poor impulse control; mood swings
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) –
- Avoidance: isolation; rejection of physical intimacy; sleeping too much
- Intrusive Thoughts: “spacing out”; perceived disinterest; nightmares
- Hyper-arousal: reactivity; irritability; hopelessness; impulsivity; paranoia; insomnia
- Depression – physical, mental, emotional fatigue; disinterest; worry; hopelessness; negative thinking; tearfulness
A second layer occurs when poor coping skills are used to tolerate these plaguing ailments. Examples include: substance abuse, gambling, infidelity, self-injury, and violence towards others.
Things become further complicated still when the injured/ill parent is resistant to talking about what’s happening with them. The family frequently has to compensate (often ineffectively) for these mysterious changes; thereby, adding a third layer to the dysfunction.
My job is to help the unit better manage the impact of injury or illness. In my sessions, I work with the entire family to:
- Develop the “Family Story”, told from the lens of each member
- Teach and practice with the parents how communicate with their children about the injury or illness
- Help family members to better understand how symptoms, triggers, and behaviors impact each other
- Plan together and increase motivation for living their “New Normal”
Unlike eggshells, the family CAN be glued back together.
The cracks are not ugly; they simply add character.