Sunday, October 01, 2017

Weekly Inspiration: The Importance of Family

This weekend, my son and I drove 14 hours round-trip to my hometown of Rochester, NY, to attend my uncle's funeral. He died Monday night, and I spent all week making a memorial DVD with photos, music, and videos for my aunt and cousins (and to show at the funeral). As I'm sure you can imagine, that all adds up to being pretty exhausted today...and behind in everything else here at home.

My dad and I at my wedding in 1989 - I miss him every day!
But those aren't my primary feelings today. I am mostly feeling grateful for being surrounded by my extended family yesterday, for the comfort of grieving together and remembering happy times. Some of my cousins are still in Rochester, but many of us are scattered now - in PA, DE, CT, and NC. It's rare for us all to be together (8 of the 9 of my first cousins were there yesterday). Sadly, we all have something else in common now - none of us have fathers anymore (my dad died two years ago). This was incredibly sad (and difficult for me, with my father's death so recent and this uncle being his closest brother) but also comforting, as we could all understand what my cousins were going through yesterday.
My cousins and I 1978 (I'm 2nd from the left)
Besides the close family (who we do see once or twice a year for holidays), I also enjoyed seeing more distant family members that I hadn't seen in many years - my own father had requested a small, private funeral for immediate family only. And I also saw some old family friends (since my dad and my uncle were close in age, they shared some friends) whom I hadn't seen since I was a little girl. It was so wonderful to talk to them about my dad and reconnect.

My cousins and I yesterday (7 of the 9 of us)

Bottom line is that family is SO important. It's easy to become isolated when we live with chronic illness, not by choice but by necessity. You may not be able to attend family functions any more or go to large gatherings like weddings and funerals. Or, you may have purposely distanced yourself from family members who don't understand your illness.

So, I thought I would once again share some of my own experiences. This blog post, Helping Family to Understand ME/CFS, describes my own very painful experiences with my family in the early years of my illness and how I finally improved things. It's still not perfect - there are people in my family who will NEVER understand - but I am glad to have repaired things enough that I am able to enjoy my family.

This article I wrote for ProHealth, Managing Family Relationships - Holidays and Beyond, is particularly important at this time of year, with holiday gatherings approaching. It provides some tips on how to enjoy the time you spend with your extended family, whether they understand your illness or not.

And if you are homebound and not able to attend family gatherings, then this article might help. It's another one I wrote just recently for ProHealth: Staying Connected with Friends While Ill. While the article focuses on friendships, the tips apply just as well to family relationships, too, with ideas for staying in touch even if you can't leave home.

I hope those blog posts and articles help you to get closer to your family and/or enjoy your time with them more. Today, I am very grateful for my family.

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