Last time I talked about preparing for the loss of a parent. You can read that email here. This time I want to talk about preparing yourself for family dynamics. I don’t know about you but this can be a difficult topic for me. Now throw in an ill parent into the mix and difficulty doesn’t begin to fully describe it. 

After about six weeks of being back home, I decided to make a trip back to AZ. My dad was not recovering well from surgery. He was not eating much and spent most of the day sleeping. It was a tough decision. Not only because of what was going on with COVID but because there was a good chance this was the trip I was going to have to say goodbye to my dad. Ugh. What if I didn’t want to say goodbye? What if I didn’t go? Would that mean he will stick around longer? I know the answers were NO, but that is where my mind immediately went.

I knew I had to prepare myself for this trip. It has been many years since my three siblings, parents, and myself have been in the same state, city, room at the same time! It brought up excitement, sadness, anger, frustration, loss, grief, trauma, sadness, grief, excitement, frustration, trauma, anger, loss, etc. I am not going to delve into the details of why it has been so long – let’s just say there’s A LOT of family dynamics going on here.

It appeared that my dad was losing his will to live. He was tired and the fight in him appeared diminished. It worried me. I wanted to do something for him. I wanted to be clear on why I was going home and why we were all going to be together soon. I decided to get clear on what my intention was for the trip – It was that as a family we were going to support my dad and be there for my mom. Okay, now what did that mean? What did that look like? 

I had a plan of how I was going to make sure MY INTENTION would happen. I was going to have a conversation with my mom and siblings so that we would all be on the same page when we talked to my dad. It was simple.

I envisioned the six of us, as a family unit, coming together to support my dad. TO ME this looked like – sitting down and having a very vulnerable conversation with him. I pictured the six of us sitting at the kitchen table laughing, reminiscing, and connecting. I imagined my dad feeling the love and support, from his family. All my dad ever wanted, was for us to all be together. If it were possible, he would want us all living under the same roof with spouses, kids, grandkids, etc. 

I wasn’t 100% certain how the conversation would go, but at some point, we would let my dad know that we loved him, that we all felt he was a good dad, that we want him to be with us for many, many more years – BUT we understood if he was tired and was ready to go. We would honor and respect his wishes. I wanted us to not only show him physically but also verbally. I wanted us to convey that we were all going to be okay, that we would take care of each other, that my siblings and I would take care of his wife, our mom. That he did a great job raising us, taking care of us. 

It was going to be so great. We would be together as a family again. It sounded good and felt good to think about. Well, you may have already guessed it, but things did not go the way I thought they would. I can’t believe that each of my family members didn’t feel or think the EXACT same way I did! I know, crazy right? At first, I found myself getting tense and upset. I just couldn’t understand why they would not want the same thing. It made perfect sense TO ME. There it was. It made perfect sense to me, not to my siblings or my mom. Yes, they all agreed that it was a great idea, but each of them had their own vision of how they wanted to interact with my dad and it wasn’t the same as mine. 

Even though things did not turn out the way I had envisioned, I feel like positive things did come out of the experience and my time at home. The individual conversations I had with each of my family members allowed me to reconnect with each of them in different ways. 

I was able to have my own 1:1 special conversations with my dad and share with him how I felt. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some tense times when I was home, but there were also many beautiful moments that I will cherish. 

Also, my dad is still with us. Turns out he is not ready to go just yet. His will to live is back. Was it because all of his children were back at home? Was it the conversations we each had with him? I am not sure, but I am grateful for more time with him. All I know is that my dad is one of the strongest, most stubborn men I know. Side note: I just found out he had my sister buy him a stationary bike and free weights so he can work out at home now. 

If you find yourself needing to prepare for family dynamics, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Set your intention for YOU, not for everyone else. 
  • You can share your intention with family members, but then let go of any expectations that they will have the same intention as you. 
  • Remember everyone deals with death, dying, grief in their own way and in their own time – and more than likely it will not look, feel or be the same way you do.
  • Be gentle and kind to yourself and your family members. We are all doing our best. 

“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be.” Mandy Hale