When Sickness Strikes the Family – Facing a Giant

Accepting that a family member does have a serious health condition is but the first step – it is inevitable. Empowering the family with knowledge of the illness also comes as a given considering the inescapability of the situation. These prepare the family for the next step – facing the giants!

Face the situation head on. The story goes of a young shepherd who braves the attack of lions and grizzlies armed with a slingshot and a few smooth riverbed stones to protect his flock. Later on, he confronted a giant armed with a javelin, a spear, a sword and a shield so large it had to be carried by another soldier! But the mere boy went on to slay the giant in full view of his compatriots and eventually became their king. What guided this young boy? It was his attitude that helped him overcome these challenges.

Attitude largely affects whether a family successfully copes with serious illness or not. In many cases the courageous attitude of the sick family member has helped others in the household to maintain a positive outlook. Even a young sick boy may show signs of being a giant at heart!

Stephen Covey, the motivational guru of the ‘90s, talked a great deal about determinism in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He quoted Eleanor Roosevelt as saying: “No one can hurt you without your consent.” Now that doesn't mean the pain a family goes through will be removed. It will still be there. But the way we respond to it will greatly determine the results of our effort. And every member of the family will have a hand on this. Covey’s advice then is just as good today as it was in his prime.

Maintain a jovial, thankful atmosphere in the family. Most who have had to deal with sickness in the family agree that initially it is not unusual for family members to have a difficult time facing the facts. They also point out that the way in which one comes to view the situation is extremely important. Changes and adjustments in the household routine may be difficult at the outset. But if a person really makes the effort, he can adapt to a new situation.

In doing so, it is important that we not compare our circumstances with those of others who do not have sickness in the family, thinking that their life is easier and that ‘it is just not fair!’ Actually, no one really knows what burdens others have to bear.

Patience. Psychologist and author Daniel Gilbert observed that people in dire health situations can be as happy as those who are not – in fact even happier sometimes – over the passage of time, no matter what the results are. This is because people, he says, are able to ‘synthesize’ happiness. It will be interesting to watch him discuss his point in his talk Daniel Gilbert Asks – Why Are We Happy?

What are we to take from that lecture? That whatever sick condition we are in, keep in mind that it is only temporary, just one part of our life which we can prevent the effects from spilling over to the others as long as we face it head-on, maintain the right attitude, keep a jovial, waiting attitude.

Of course, this does not mean an all-encompassing solution to facing sickness in the family. How about the other aspects of our family life, like education, work, recreation, children? We will try to discuss this on the next installment of this series.