The weight of their world on your shoulders

Balancing the weight of your loved one’s issues is hard, but remembering to keep your own head above water is harder. 

Personal illness can be difficult to deal with and especially hard when it’s time to take care of yourself. Sometimes, that load is increased by your responsibility to others. When someone close falls ill, you may be the shoulder that illness falls onto.

The well-being of your family is a burden you must bear. It is no trivial matter to provide support for those closest. Often, people get caught up in making a difference to the world with activism and campaigning. However, sometimes the hardest task is the one at your doorstep.

One problem that young people can face is the dissolution of their parents’ relationship. When your father walks out on your mother, the weight he had lifted may land onto you. Your mother may struggle with her personal life, her social life, her financial situation, her employment and mental health. These are five huge areas that need sorting out.

A challenge like this can seem insurmountable to a son, or daughter. With so many threads to mend, where does one start? Start with yourself. If a parent is struggling, it is not fair that they also struggle with you.

The best thing you can do for a parent, struggling or otherwise, is to straighten yourself out. If your mother, or father, spends half their time worrying about you, they’re only left with half of their time to look after themselves. If you get yourself on track, you can assist your parents in their own struggles.

Lighten the load of your family members. This can involve simple, thoughtful acts. Visit your lonely grandparents whenever you can. Ask your shy cousin if he’d like to hang out. Take your stressed mother out for afternoon brunch. A small act of kindness can have a disproportionate amount of good within it.

Be a strong member of your family. Endeavour to be the one that is capable of providing support and guidance in times of strife. It will not only strengthen your character but also the bonds which are integral to the family as a whole.

A difficult thing to imagine is the death of a family member. Whether it by your mother, father, grandfather or grandmother, thinking upon that situation can invoke an immense sense of dread and avoidance. Being strong is not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind in this scenario.

Yet this scenario is inevitable. Death is the great fear that strikes down even the strongest of people. What is the appropriate response to this eventuality? Strive to keep standing. Ensure that when this tragedy does strike, you’re prepared. Be in the best shape possible.

Tragedy needn’t be Hell. An ancient mythic and religious truth is that life is suffering. Family members fall ill. Your father leaves. Your mother falls depressed. Your uncle is murdered. Your grandfather develops Alzheimer’s. Tragedy wears many different masks.

The best defence against tragedy is strong individuals. Who do you want to be when things fall apart? The quivering wreck in the corner, or the beacon of light that guides others through the dark? Adversity is the best recipe for growth, be it personal or familial.

There is tremendous humility in helping your family. Anyone can claim that they want to make the world a better place, but its seldom few who actually set out to support those encompassed in their duty of care. Be strong. Sort yourself out. Then, sort your family out, one step at a time. It’s not easy, but nothing meaningful ever is.

Dave Kelly

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