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A Life Interrupted

Disruption to life can come at unexpected moments, throwing us off a well planned schedule and causing our minds to spin trying to make sense of what we are experiencing and how it is going to impact our commitments and future plans. For those of us who enjoy scheduling, planning and goal setting, there is something reassuring about being able to predict what tomorrow looks like. Most of us who have lived well into our adult years understand that these moments will happen, it is only a matter of time. If we have experienced these types of blows before, we know it can often take time to readjust and find our equilibrium again. How do we make sense when this readjustment does not come and we feel like we are internally breaking apart?

I recall one of those moments myself when life was not turning out to my plan. As a family we had uprooted and moved from Perth, our hometown, to a new city in Brisbane, it became a season of new connections, new business, new job and a season of transition for my children, leaving behind my eldest 20 year old son to finish his apprenticeship, my daughter at 17 was trying to find her feet in the unfamiliar territory of the ballet world in Brisbane and abroad she was facing the disappointment of doors remaining shut. While my youngest introverted child with learning difficulties entering a new high school in the 2nd term of year 7. This became a moment in time when the inherited stresses of my own family of origin consisting of buried emotions, lack of self awareness and blame. Collided with the stresses of a new neighbourhood, disconnection of teens, insecurity of business and lost purpose. McGoldrick, Carter & Preto-Garcia (2011), describe this family stage as when vertical stressors, such as family patterns, myths, secrets and legacies intersect with horizontal stressors of stages of development and unpredictable events. The outcome is disruption, we can no longer keep behaving the same way, we are forced to change, whether we like it or not.

At the age of 43 I knew that wisdom was not to white knuckle it through this emotional breakdown, it felt like all my internal resources had melted away and I was swimming in the shark infested waters of my own mind not knowing if the fears in my head would swallow me whole. So I reached out to pastoral care within my church, they had become a safety net for our family already helping us out when a few days into our arrival my daughter was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. The calm, listening presence provided the space for the emotions to come rushing forward and I began to realise that I was not ok. I was very good at dismissing the impact of having my mother back in Western Australia going through treatment having been newly diagnosed with breast cancer and my 93 year old grandmother dying months after our arrival, these compounding events had shaken me to the core. I will forever be grateful when I was referred for counselling and took the brave step to unpack what I was going through. That decision led to me studying counselling and discovering that there were very good reasons why life was suddenly interrupted. This moment became a defining one, I thought I was totally fine about my family story growing up and how it had impacted my life. I discovered that I was very good at protecting myself through denial, distraction, addiction, busyness and the need to be needed. As I write this, I smile at the beauty of restoration when a willing heart admits it is hurting and seeks the help of those who are in the business of healing. If you find yourself in this place then reach out for help and spend the time, money and energy on something that is eternally valuable and of great worth - YOU.

McGoldrick, M., Carter, B., & Garcia-Preto. (2011). The Expanded Family Life Cycle: Individual, family, and social perspectives. (4th Ed.) Boston: Allyn & BAcon.

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