Having this crisis, right about the time my migraines peaked and were back to back, made for one of the most painful periods of time I've ever experienced. It wasn't a very fun time for the entire family. The older children were concerned, and the younger ones were disrupted. Daddy had to wear his super-cape. A lot of resources were directed toward the crisis, and the entire family was forced to sacrifice.
Now that the dust has settled, each of the kids has started to show signs of wear in his or her own special way, and each has needed some individual help. Though each reaction has been specific to the age and personality of the family member, I've found that the approach needed has been strategically similar, and I thought I'd share my insights for anyone who may experience a corresponding family event.
1. Validation (general to specific): We just went through something really hard. Lots of us had to give up things we wanted to do. I could tell you were really worried. I'm sorry I didn't get to watch your field day; you were disappointed. You were angry when you didn't get to have the "School's Out Party" that you were planning. It's OK to feel those feelings. What else have you been feeling?
2. Positive Reinforcement: I appreciate the way that you have been so patient. You made a really nice card to send to the hospital. Thank you for doing your chores so well. It's really helpful that you volunteered to help in extra ways. I noticed that you were extra nice to your sister...
3. Gentle Correction: I know that you were disappointed when we made the new rule about no more sleeping outside on the trampoline. It made you angry, and it's OK to feel angry. It's not OK to scream at your sister, or throw a book at her and tell her that it's her fault, or to call her names. There were a lot of reasons for the new rule. Your sister has some new health rules that she has to follow, and she's not so happy about them either. But some of the rules will be good rules for all of us, and will help us to be more healthy. Our new rule is just as much about you fighting on the trampoline at 11:00 at night and keeping the neighbors awake and then being grouchy the next day as it is about the new bedtime for your sister.
4. Challenge: I can see that this experience has changed your relationship with your sister. What do you think? How is it better? Are there ways that it is weaker? Are there some things that you can do to strengthen your bond again? What are your ideas?
5. Positive Ending/Motivation: You are an important part of our family. We need everyone on our team to work together to help us win the game. There is a place for each of us. There is a place for you. You have been so valuable while we focused on this challenge, and some day, you will face a demand and we will be there for you. That's why we are a family. We can help each other. The best thing about family is that we can keep trying, and learn things together that we can't learn anywhere else. We'll always have each other.
Some of the kids are working through resentments, some are learning to forgive. Some are a little over-the-top attention-seeking with their sister, and some are bugging her to the point of insanity.
She is working to repair some of the damage, and her default is to withdraw into cyberspace when she gets overwhelmed. This kind of numbing is preferable to any other kind (drugs, alcohol, etc. which she has thankfully never turned to), but we are trying to help her stay in the real world.
Our family vacation was a true Tender Mercy in so many ways. She was healthier and happier than I've seen her for a really long time. I watched the entire family interact and heal. So many good things happened.
I'll add some pictures later.
We rented a huge cabin in Star Valley Wyoming near Jackson Hole. Some friends joined us half-way through, and we played with Handsome's brother and his family. We started at Grandma's, ended at Grandpa's, and in-between we rode 4-wheelers, did fireworks, rode a ferry across Jenny Lake and hiked the Tetons, played in Warm Springs and caught guppies and tadpoles, cooked dutch oven, ate pizza and burgers, floated the river, talked, more fireworks, watched movies, played games, did crafts, celebrated Princess's birthday, rode in airplanes (just the kids ages 8-17) played at Bear Lake, made Kool Aid at Soda Springs, watched the Geyser, swam at a pool, read, played electronics, explored and basically just had a marvelous, relaxing time. It was the best family vacation we've ever had in my opinion. I think it was because we had a "home base" and weren't packing up to move to the next location every couple of days. We had our own laundry facilities, which was awesome, and I could just talk my brains out with my friend and my sister-in-law and niece. Just a lovely, lovely time. I'm so very thankful for the "Nauvoo times" of our lives. So much healing and down time from such a terrible past 9 months of migraines and troubles with an ill child.
Here is a funny little tender mercy:
While we were in WY, I bumped into my old LDS Bishop (pastor) from 30+ years ago, and his wife at a grocery store that they own, which they were visiting. I instantly recognized him and introduced myself. He remembered me and called his wife over.
I was just a little girl when I last saw them, but I was flooded with so many feelings of love for them and from them. Amazing. That is magnifying a calling--when someone you served as a child can still feel the love you felt for her after more than 30 years. I don't remember sitting in his office, or anything he ever said, but I KNOW that he loved me, and that he knew me and cared about me as one of the little lambs in his flock. (Also, he gave me a cookie once.) The rest of the day I couldn't get an old song out of my head:
" Busy as a man can be,
He's our Bishop.
He finds time to talk to me;
He's our Bishop.
Always kindly words he'll say
To the children every day.
Let us help him every way
He's our Bishop."
Words and music: Robert P. Manookin
He heard that L Nellie is headed to BYU-I, which is close to his hometown, and he immediately offered to have her over for dinner. Nice.
In this book I am reading by Brene Brown about Daring Greatly, she talked about carefully choosing who to share our vulnerabilities with. Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story, and not everyone can be trusted to keep it safe, and to help you in the right ways. She stated that if we have one or two people in our lives who qualify this way, we are very lucky.
I was thinking about this, and I realized that I am blessed beyond measure. If I had a horrible tragedy, something that I was terribly ashamed of, or something that was causing me great pain or that was making me feel vulnerable, I have more than just one or two very trusted people who I know I could call for help. I know that there are several people who I could call and know that they would be fully able and willing to help me remember that in spite of everything I am a Child of God, and that as such I am of great worth.
I wish I had a word for this kind of friend. Best friend sounds so 2nd Grade. Beside, there are more than one. "Besties" is so Jr. High and kind of silly. "Soul Mate" sounds like lovers, which it's not, though it is a very deep bond of love. Hm.
What an amazing blessing! I was thinking tonight of friends who have trusted me with their pain and their imperfections, with their STORIES. Friends who have heard my stories and seen my warts. Friends who know exactly what my stretch marks look like because they were there when they were made; some who caused them; others who played show and tell. Friends who laugh at my jokes or crack me up, who have cried with me, know my strengths and weaknesses and are comfortable with my imperfections and my touch.
Friends who probably know my parents and hopefully even love my kids.
Friendships like this take a lot of time to grow. Years. There have been some that started out, and then were just not what they seemed; they became good friends who will always be good friends, but not this kind that I'm talking about right now. This "Even If We Don't See Each Other For Years We'll Pick Right Up Where We Left Off When We Meet Back Up" kind of friendship. The kind of friend who might owe me $10, or maybe I owe her $10, but it will probably come out in the wash. One who might pick up a sick kid from school and bring them home for me and maybe already know the password. The kind whose kids feel comfy enough in my house to get into my chocolate stash like the rest of the outlaws.
Some people might never even have one of these. One you can call when you're at the end of your rope and there are no more knots. We long for a FOREVER FRIEND, a SISTER. I have so many!
And if that weren't enough, I'm discovering that I'm maybe just gaining another. So blessed! I'm filled with joy when I feel God's pure love for a friend.