Effects of Illness On The Family

“There is no such thing as accident; it is fate misnamed.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

This year I have been focusing on BodyPresencing™ issues as presented through my work, and as they relate to what I have learned from my family and my father. Our families are great feeding and learning grounds for us. They present as opportunities for us to learn and to grow; very rich soil. The more I work with people the more I see how in many ways the issues, illnesses of physical, emotional and spiritual nature, impact us. When one person is ill in some way, the whole family is ill; in some way. This is one of the reasons that families present as such fertile learning grounds. We can change how their illness and issues affect us when we are conscious in our lives, and that can be done with a lot of work.

We can see this dynamic in obvious ways, as in when a family member has a mental illness, or when a family member has a chronic illness of some kind, like Cerebral Palsy, or severe rheumatoid arthritis, or long term cancer, etc. That we are taking on their illness occurs in small ways that often can go unnoticed.  As we age, other illnesses impact us, as in Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's and such. 

My father came from a line of men who cheated others in some way and felt guilty. His grandfather came to America in the early 1900’s as a successful bookbinder. He bound books for Kings and Popes in Europe. When he came to America, he didn’t work. He spent most of his time listening to Opera music and his wife didn’t respect him. No one knew that he had money; especially his family, until his death. At his funeral many people came to pay their respects and thank him and his family for helping them financially in their time of need. This came as a great surprise to his family. Dad’s grandfather had a great secret, which remains secret. Dad’s father then disappeared for a few years during the Great Depression. The secret of what happened to him remains a secret, and in his whole life he was never able to support his family financially very well. Dad supported his parents in their later lives and allowed his father to retire from work as a printer that he never enjoyed. Later in my father’s life, he suddenly began to take great chances with his money and ended up giving all of his money away to scammers who specialize in taking advantage of the elderly. In fact, he also unintentionally lost other people’s money who he talked into giving money to him for a promise of a good return for their money. He continued this pattern, and became entranced in the family secrets. In an unconscious way, he couldn’t allow himself to succeed when his father and grandfather couldn’t. He became ill in the way he thought of money and value and gave everything away. 

I came from a visit with my sister and my father. One is dealing with the effects of cancer and the other with the effects of dementia. Our whole family is reeling from their illnesses. One very important thing we understand more as we get older is that their illness is theirs; not ours. It is their learning lesson. We can care about them, be sympathetic, and be there, but we can’t take their pain or their illness from them, or even make it easier. That is their work. However, we can easily become confused as to whose work is whose. When we are young, we want to step in and help our parents or our siblings when they are suffering in some way. That instinct can come up again and kick us when this occurs as we get older. It hurts to see people we love suffer. We want to do something, and the best thing we can do is to be there as we can and when we can. It doesn’t help anyone when we suffer too; feel stressed, get ill, feel guilty, and so on.

Often an unconscious effect of illness in the family is not doing well ourselves. If our father, in my case, doesn’t do well, or our sister, or mother, in some way we can’t allow ourselves to do well either. When this is unconscious, the “not doing well” can rule us. The not doing well can look like not succeeding in life; not writing the book we want to write, not being successful in our business or sabotaging ourselves in some way, carrying a skin disease like psoriasis, failing in relationships, etc. We can also feel like we have to take care of them and that they need us, and their need takes precedence over our own needs and lives. 

I find I have to work to consciously live my own life and leave dad’s fate and my sister’s fate to them. What good would it do them for me to become ill? What good what it do me if I gave my life over to taking care of them? I can hold them in my heart and love them. I can allow myself to live a healthy, whole, conscious life so their patterns don’t have to repeat. A question we can all look at in our lives is how, if any, do we allow other’s illnesses to affect us? As we can see clearly, we can have some control over our own lives, but not theirs.  Here is to a life well lived of wholeness, vitality and health!

Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Bit Results:

Let’s take a minute and look at our lives and our families lives. Is there a way in which a family member struggles? Take a look at their struggles. This could be in failed relationships, failed business, a physical illness, a chronic illness, etc. 

What do we do in reaction to their struggles? Do we try to take care of them physically, or emotionally? Do we think we can help change them? Do we feel guilty in some way when we do well, or by not stepping in when it would be difficult for us to do so? Do we do things like them? Do we feel badly about doing well when they aren’t or they can’t? Do we feel in some way that if we get too close we will catch what they have? 

Take a few moments and write down how you might act in reaction to their illness or struggles. Ask for help in seeing these things if it is hard for you to see. Maybe ask a good friend what they see in this situation that you might not be able to see clearly. 

Lastly, read this over to yourself so you can continue your work in understanding your part in other’s illness. This is an ongoing process. What we want in life is to live our own lives as fully as possible. If you would like to share what you find, I would appreciate a little note if this would be helpful to you.

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