Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Every rock needs a solid foundation

Recently I saw an image on Facebook where someone had created a number of circles – like a target – showing how comfort should be given to people in a crisis.  The basis was that those in the larger circles give comfort to those in the smaller circles, all the way into the ‘bulls-eye’.  Those in the smaller circles can ask for comfort from those in the larger circles, however not vice versa.  The closer you are to the crisis, the more comfort you’re supposed to receive, not give.

When I looked at this image, I wondered who the rock is for ‘the rock’ of the family this crisis is affecting.  In a lot of families, the Mum is the rock for everyone else, and it’s the same way in mine.  Although I know that I can turn to Nigel whenever I need to, I also know that I ‘cope’ better with Julian's condition than he does.  Maybe it’s because I grew up with an older brother with a life-threatening condition.  I’m also the perfect person to help his younger brothers and sisters through their worries, because I’ve been in their position as well.  What I do know is that I have learned to ‘shrink’ all the worries down and hold it all in one tight ball.  If I didn’t, I’d explode!   

Within our family, we have a lot of these ‘targets’ all overlapping each other.  Obviously Julian has one bulls-eye, and the outer circles are Nigel and I, his siblings, his grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, teachers, etc.  BUT!  Each of his siblings also has a ‘bulls-eye’, just like Nigel and I do, and Julian is learning to be one of our outer circles as well.  Just as we are still learning to help him cope with what is happening in his life, he is also learning to help us cope with having a son and brother with a life-threatening condition.  It is as hard on us as it is on him, just in a different way.  While we can never really understand what it’s like to have this threat hanging over his head every day, neither can he truly understand what it’s like for us.  Nigel and I live every day with the knowledge that we may outlive our own child - something no parent should ever have to live with – and his younger siblings live with the knowledge that they may end up growing up without their much loved big brother.  I know how this feels from both sides, as a younger sister and as a Mother, and it is hard.

So, in a family like ours, each ‘rock’ has to have a firm foundation, and that foundation is formed by the outer circles.  Nigel and I are each other's rocks, but I also know that if either of us fail to cope, then our foundation is wide enough that there are other ‘rocks’ for us to turn to.  I know that I lean on my own Mum a lot, and her rock is my Dad, just as she is his.  I also know that they can turn to my brother, and he can turn to his wife.  Our foundation is large and it is strong.  It’s not just made up of one rock, but many.  If it wasn’t, we would all crumble.

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