Family Feuds can happen in the best of families and sometimes occur in the worst of times. When they do, they have the power to rip your family apart, plunging you into a nightmare of bitterness and anger. Or, they can open the door to your greatest dreams.
About two months before my wife passed, she was struck with bilateral pneumonia (worse than it sounds, it’s just pneumonia in both lungs). She was hospitalized and was very frightened and scared and did not want to be left alone. So, I stayed there all day and night and slept on a very uncomfortable portable bed. Hospitals are the worst place to get sleep with alarms going off all night long, and nurses coming in every hour to check on Mimi.
So I awoke each day sleep deprived and in a massive amount of back pain and I had a perpetual headache, but I rarely complained. She needed me, and I had to do what I could to make those last days as soothing as possible.
My mother-in-law was a helpful resource for times like this to help with the girls, but right now, she was battling ill health herself. So, we quickly made arrangements for Taylor to stay with a friend. Hailey stayed with my mom part of the time and another friend part of the time. Though this friend assured us that she was fine with letting Hailey stay with her, evidently, she secretly felt resentful.
Rather than talking to me about it, she “confided” in my sister-in-law that I wasn’t as attentive to Hailey during this time as I should be. This friend said that she was going to call Child Protective Services. My sister-in-law told her that she “didn’t want the information to get twisted” and that she would call them herself.
My wife was sitting outside in her wheelchair when CPS showed up and said to her that there were reports that I was neglecting my kids and alleged that I had been the cause of her broken her leg. She was shocked and disturbed to see social services arrive on our doorstop. After hearing these claims against me, she told them, “You have been misinformed; it’s due to cancer my bones break easily. And Gerry had taken our girls skiing when this happened and wasn’t even here.”
So, after their investigation, it was determined that the charges were false and no further action was taken by CPS. But, when I found out about what had happened, I was furious and vowed never to speak to my sister-in-law again. In addition, when I spoke to my brother, I found out that he was involved too. I decided to sever all ties with them and never speak to either of them again.
Shortly after that, my girls were to have a joint ceremony celebrating them into adulthood in the Jewish religion called a B’nai Mitvah. My brother and sister-in-law had not been invited as my wife and I were still furious with their actions. About a week later, as my wife’s health was deteriorating to the point of no return, the Cantor and I were talking. I remember his profound words, “During this time you need your family, and people do crazy things when they are under stress.”
I began to hold on to that vision of us as family. Sometimes, it was incredibly difficult to keep that vision in mind. Sometimes, I wished that they would just disappear and not be part of my lives anymore. But, I knew that they would always be there for me when my wife was gone and when I needed them most.
Boy, am I glad that I forgave them, and held on to my vision. Because, if I hadn’t, I would have gone through her death, funeral and the grieving period all alone.
It was a difficult journey to go through, but one that I am ever grateful for because through it, I learned powerful lessons that have helped me in every area of my life. I want to share them with you in hope that you can learn from my mistakes and apply them to your own life.
These lessons hold the keys to your joy, success, and happiness.
1. Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude.
Your attitude controls who you are and your reaction to problems. Maintaining a positive mental attitude, ensures that nothing can veer you off that track.
Knowing where you want to go, and seeing that vision, allows you to treat these wrongful occurrences, anger and blame, as mere distractions. Seeing it in this light, allows you to focus, and block out the “noise” so that your anger and frustration doesn’t escalate.
2. Stay Calm and Breathe.
When things escalate, if you can stay calm and breathe, you can remain in control of the situation.
Breathing gives you the ability to slow downand think about a problem rationally. It calms the mind and spirit and keeps you from overreacting.
If you haven’t tried yoga before, it can be a great way to learn how to do this in a non-emotionally stressful context even when your body is being extremely challenged. You can take that experience into the emotional challenges that arise during any family fight.
3. Choose your Reaction.
In every moment, you have a choice. Sometimes, it might not feel that way. Especially when someone wrongs you, harasses you, or screams at you. You may feel as if you don’t have control, you are powerless, a victim. You are falling apart.
In these moments, remember you are not a victim. You are always in control of your own reaction in every moment. While you cannot control the person who has wronged you, or who your in a relationship with, you can control yourself and the way you respond.
When you make the choice to respond from love, even when what is coming at you feels like the anti-thesis of love, you are standing in your own power. This is where you will find your freedom.
Your practice in these moments when you feel victimized or out of control is to stay calm, breathe and respond from love.
If you cannot respond from love, take a time out. Walk away. Disengage and come back to the situation when you are centered.
4. Remember Who You Are.
When it is most difficult to respond from love, it’s generally because you have forgotten the truth of your own nature. You have forgotten that you are love. You are freedom. You are generosity. No one can take that away from you.
The pain you are feeling is related to the disconnection from your own truth. The good news is that if you’ve gotten away from the truth of who you are, it’s never too late to return to it. When you do, lightness will replace the pain, darkness and heaviness that is keeping you embroiled in your conflict.
5. Block Out People Who Bring You Down.
If you are like most people, your friends don’t help you stay in contact with your highest self. Instead, they remind you about how you’ve been wronged, victimized and taken advantage of. When you hear those words, it’s a red flag that you need to thank the person you are talking with and walk away. Then, come back and read this.
You are love. You are freedom. You are generosity. Slowly, breathe that in and let it saturate your lungs, make its way into your heart and radiate through your body out to your fingers and toes. As you breathe out, repeat the following 4 simple phrases until you once again remember the truth of who you are and then let me know what happens for you when you do.