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When Bad Things Happen: Times for Family Closeness


11Jan 2009

Part of life is the fact that “bad things happen” – a car accident, serious physical problems, death of a family member, loss of a job,  — all kinds of events are possible.

Recently, I have had a number of family members and friends struggle with serious physical problems:  brain tumors, breast cancer, back problems, vertigo, depression, kidney malfunctions.  (I don’t think I “create” physical problems in those around me, nor do I gather people with illnesses around me; it seems to be one of those times in life when certain life events seem to cluster together.)

And a few weeks ago, my daughter had a significant car accident, where she flipped her car.   Fortunately, she was wearing her seat belt and she was not physically hurt.  But, obviously, some practical, daily life lessons were learned, and we were extremely thankful for her safety.

And this week, my nephew’s son, Caden, died from a protracted battle with cancer.  Caden was five years old.   He was a delightful, cheerful boy who was full of life.  We are going to miss him terribly.  The emotional pain associated with a child’s death seems to be indescribable.
But tragic events and life’s struggles, in the midst of the pain, provide opportunities for growth:

  • The opportunity to grow closer together as a family.  Serious life-changing events can help us to realize how important those close to us really are.  We have the opportunity to verbalize and communicate our care for each other in ways that we usually don’t.  This weekend we had a family dinner with our children and used the time to reflect on Caden’s life and our responses to his death; it was a significant time together.
  • The opportunity to reflect on one’s life — the purpose and meaning of life, and reprioritizing life’s activities.  When a person faces a serious illness, it causes us to consider the brevity of life and to reconsider what is really important to us.  Most of us remember this reaction after 9/11 — a lot of daily life activities were suspended so people could spend time together with their families.  And the challenges give us a longer term perspective to think about: What is the meaning of life?  Why am I here? Is life on earth all there is?
  • The opportunity to build (and sometimes, rebuild) closer relationships with friends and extended family members.  Life is fast-paced for most of us.  And many of us no longer live close to extended family members (brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandparents, aunts & uncles).  And we also may not see long-term friends from prior stages in our lives as frequently as we used to.  Significant events in our lives can provide the channel to reconnect.  They may also provide the impetus to get past hurts and wounds, to forgive, and to say, “You are important to me.”

So, if you or someone close to you, is in the midst of a difficult life circumstance, take the time and effort to connect with those around you.

And even if life’s circumstances are going fairly well for you currently, be thankful, and tell someone close to you that you love them, that you appreciate them, or that you really enjoy being around them.  Today with them is a gift you won’t always have.

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