Life might not be the party we hoped for,
but while we’re here we might as well dance.
Loss is inevitable. None of us escapes “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” How do we best help families and communities heal from trauma and loss as they respond to persistent life challenges and adversity?
The positive concept of resilience, initially defined as an individual trait, constitutes the ability to withstand and rebound from stressful disruptive crises that interrupt developmental tasks. These include death and other traumatic losses as well as challenging distressing unexpected family transitions such as:
Separation and divorce
Chronic, severe and potentially life-shortening illnesses
Unemployment and financial impoverishment
Barriers to success for at-risk youth
Froma Walsh further defines family resilience as “Strengths Forged through Adversity” and highlights three goals of the process:
Reducing stress and vulnerability
Fostering healing and growth
Empowering families to emerge strengthened, more resourceful, and better able to love fully and raise their children well
In focusing systemically on families and communities she highlights the intrinsic value of extended kin and non-digital social networks to meet challenges, make meaning and define a future purpose. The goal is to not just survive but to thrive in the domains of personal well-being, relationships and productivity.
Every “individual” crisis involves the entire family. A person’s death creates an “Emotional Shock Wave” that reverberates throughout the extended family system for many months or years after the salient event. Loss occurs on multiple levels:
Loss of the physical person
Loss of relationships
Loss of family content and structure
Loss of hopes and dreams for the future
Understanding the interactions between family structure, function and process enhances “the art of the possible,” and furthers dialogue to help families get safely through turbulent waters. Acknowledgement of the reality and shared experience of loss facilitates family reorganization and reinvestment in other relationships and life goals. Focusing on strengths and resource helps families develop the ability to struggle well and empowers families to overcome persistent adversity.
“A family resilience approach is a very positive and constructive way that we can use to teach families how to make sense of what has happened and how to move forward, as difficult as that may currently seem to be.” (Alison M. Heru, MD on Dr. Forma Walsh’s Family Resilience Framework)
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|Ronald B. Cohen, MD
Bowen Family Systems Coach
1 Barstow Road, Suite P-10
Great Neck, NY 11021