Lidasan: Healing and resilience

LIKE in many families, I admit that I had deep problems in getting along with my elder siblings. A few years back, I realized that it would be better to cut off relationships with them because of irreconcilable differences and conflicts, due mainly to pride and ego.

There were times in the past when I felt bad of myself whenever I performed my salah (daily prayers) and Friday jummah, reciting the verses in the Qur'an reminding me of the importance of family, sabr (patience), and yet, I was not talking to them. Even though that was the case before, I always made sure that I included them in my prayers and that Allah (SWT) (will) always guide and protect them and their families.

I belong to a family of eight (four boys and four girls) and I am the youngest. As the youngest, I always wanted to prove to my siblings that I was independent. I was strong. I was no longer the "baby boy" whom my older brothers loved to "bully". I thought that I would be happier terminating my relationships with my siblings and I am better left alone.

As far as I can remember, we were a close family. We were so close because of our mom. Our mother was the strong pillar in our family. She kept us all intact. Even my nephews and nieces were close to my mom. In our house in Cotabato, we could all stay for hours in her huge master's bedroom -- talking, watching movies, or even eating afternoon snacks.

When she passed last 2006, our family was torn apart. I thought there was no more reason for us to get together for a weekend or during holidays and vacations. The pain of losing Mom was so unbearable that I isolated myself from my family.

In recent years, things changed. In one of my readings about family, I learned that, "Sibling relationships are our longest, but it's also an accident by birth. There are no guarantees that the siblings will grow up with similar personalities, interests or like each other," explained Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a Princeton, N.J.-based clinical psychologist.

"When parents have more than one child, their wish is for the siblings to be friends forever and have each other for love throughout their lives. Sometimes it doesn't work out," Kennedy-Moore said.

She also said, "Sibling estrangement is an outgrowth of "drifting apart and taking different paths. The more painful (break-up) is when it comes out of a conflict or many conflicts."

While learning about these psychological view points about siblings, I worked hard to keep our family together. I reached out. I followed Kennedy-Moore's recommendations:

* Show compassion for your brother or sister and strive to see things from the sibling's viewpoint alongside your own.

* Tell your sibling exactly what you want from him or her moving forward. Don't just vent. Ask your brother or sister to please stop doing something or explain exactly what actions you want.

* Cut back on the relationship, without ending it. Negotiate a streamlined relationship that entails occasional emails.

I followed her advice and slowly built a strong relationship with my siblings through the years. And I am happy to say that my brothers, sisters, and I were able to spend time together once again during the Christmas holidays last year.

My self-imposed isolation from family was counter-productive. I now realize that transforming my deep problems and my desire to prove my worth into a positive and deeper relationship creates a healthier atmosphere within my family. I realized that even among siblings, we needed conflict resolution -combining self-awareness, understanding, and acceptance.

Showing compassion towards my siblings has helped resolve long-drawn conflicts. We are taking care of our family's generation. This sets a good example. With this positive change and transformation within my family, my brothers, sisters, and I are now better able to lead the next generation, not only within our family clan, but also within the communities we contribute to and serve. And with that, I finally realize the importance of healing and resilience within a family, making it a strong and empowered unit in any given community. The desire my siblings and I have for family resonate with that which we desire for the greater Bangsamoro family.


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