Chapter 2: All in the family
Do I know you? A shift in family roles
My sister has always been withdrawn. Well, after our father got sick, she started to take over. I felt like my own world had ground to a halt; I couldn’t do anything useful. My brother got totally absorbed in anything as long as it had nothing to do with Dad.
Existing family roles
As mentioned earlier in this module, “family” is whatever it means to you: a parent and kids; a group of siblings and their partners; multiple generations; kinship systems with members who aren’t related by blood or marriage; a group of friends. Every
family has its own rules, roles, and ways of communicating.
Anu is always the one who organizes family get-togethers.
It’s important to Chan to be part of every decision.
Everyone goes to Uncle Mike when they need advice.
Keira will commit to doing something but never follow through.
Li will mow the lawn and fix things around the house but isn’t comfortable with family conflict.
Aunt Fathima can’t keep a secret.
Family member reactions
All existing roles can be thrown up in the air like a deck of cards when someone in the family gets a serious, life-limiting diagnosis. And what happens when the cards come down?
They might express strong emotions with little or no regard for others, or they may shut down.
They may move, willingly or unwillingly, into new roles.
Their ways of communicating, getting together, or visiting may change or stop.
Family member interactions
Even if individual family members stick close to their roles, it is likely that the situation will intensify the ways they interact and force differences and issues to the surface.
I have never been compensated for the fact that Dad took you into the business and not me.
Why am I responsible for all the caregiving, yet you make all the financial decisions?
Don’t tell me how I should feel!