Chapter 2: All in the family
A shift in family roles
My sister has always been the quiet one. Well, after our father got sick, she started to take over. I felt like my own world had ground to a halt; I couldn’t do anything useful. My brother got totally absorbed in anything as long as it had nothing to do with Dad.
Existing family roles
Family is anyone identified as family. It may include a parent and children; a group of siblings and their partners; multiple generations; kinship systems with members who aren’t related by blood or marriage; and a group of friends. Every family has
its own rules, roles, and ways of communicating. When someone is ill, the family roles change, and everyone adjusts in their own way.
Anu is always the one who organizes family get-togethers.
It’s important to Chan to be part of every decision.
Everyone goes to Uncle Mike when they need advice.
Keira will commit to doing something but never follow through.
Li will mow the lawn and fix things around the house but isn’t comfortable with family conflict.
Aunt Fathima can’t keep a secret.
Family member reactions
Family roles can change dramatically when someone in the family is diagnosed with a serious illness. Everyone’s roles naturally change.
Some may express strong emotions with seemingly little or no regard for others, or they may shut down.
People may move, willingly or unwillingly, into new roles.
Ways of communicating, getting together, or visiting may change.
Family member interactions
Even if individual family members stick close to their roles, the situation will likely intensify the ways they interact. This may force differences and issues to the surface.
I have never been compensated for the fact that Dad took you into the business and not me.
Why am I responsible for all the caregiving, yet you make all the financial decisions?
Don’t tell me how I should feel!