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Jade’s story: why it’s important to talk about your family monsters

12 June 2019

Blogger, Jade shares her experience of caring for her niece and nephew as a Special Guardian and why it’s important to face our family monsters by talking about them, whatever your family looks like.

Having important conversations is something that all families can find difficult. Every family encounters conversations that they might prefer to ignore. Families can sometimes think it is ‘better’ to bury their head in the sand and ignore the elephant in the room. However, we strongly believe that facing these conversations will ensure that they do not grow into a monster that is then feared and despised. Every family has its monsters and it is so important to face them together, as a united front.

During our journey as a Special Guardianship family, we have had to have many important, but admittedly difficult, conversations. Undoubtedly the most difficult conversation we have ever had to have is telling our Niece and Nephew that their Mummy had died. Nothing will ever prepare you for having to do that. When Uncle and his Dad told our Niece and Nephew that their Mummy had died, they told them facts. We believe this has really helped them to understand death and hopefully helped them to process their bereavement. Particularly as their Mummy’s death was so sudden. However, for some families, these metaphors can provide comfort. We are not saying that how we do it is the right way; it’s just the right way for us. We also think that this helps our Niece and Nephew to express their emotions and know that how they are feeling about their Mummy’s death is perfectly okay. We will always communicate with them about their Mummy’s death and know that the more difficult conversations are yet to come.

“open and honest conversations about their Mummy really helps our Niece and Nephew to process what they have been through and how they are feeling”

Having those open and honest conversations about their Mummy really helps our Niece and Nephew to process what they have been through and how they are feeling. We have never shied away from this subject and have always encouraged discussions of this nature. These conversations frequently occur naturally, but sometimes we allocate time within our busy week to sit down and talk about our memories. Despite these conversations happening regularly, we are conscious that these memories may gradually grow faint and disappear. To combat this we have a ‘Mummy Memories’ jar where we all add in written memories of our Niece and Nephew’s Mummy. This whole process helps us to have positive, happy discussions about her. Occasionally, these conversations turn to sadness. They make us remember just how much we miss her and how much we wish she was sat at the dining table with us. If this does happen, it is also important for us to acknowledge those emotions and talk to each other about how we are feeling. It is key for our Niece and Nephew to understand that we all have those emotions and it is all part of our grief.

We have also had to face many difficult conversations with the other adults around us. Admitting that we needed help and support was something that we really didn’t want to discuss at first. We felt such unnecessary pressure to always be absolutely fine because becoming Special Guardians was a choice we had made ourselves. There is always that fear of people thinking you are a failure because you need help. We cannot stress enough that that is not the case at all. We are human! The bravest thing you can ever say is “help”. That doesn’t mean you are struggling, or cannot cope any more, or want everything to change. You are just opening up and being truthful. And opening up to those closest to us was so therapeutic. It wasn’t even necessarily to get any advice from our friends and family; although the advice was always valued. It was more to be heard. To be listened to. And even though our situation is quite unique, it was so great to know we weren’t alone in how we were feeling. Everyone else around us was adapting to change too. Even friends that weren’t directly or immediately impacted by our circumstances were able to emphasise and understand.

“Facing family monsters is something we are always going to experience, but we want to face them together. And having open and honest conversations is the way to do that”

Encouraging others to have difficult conversations is also something we’ve had to encounter. Everyone grieves in their own way, which is perfectly understandable, but sometimes it made things so awkward when other people weren’t willing to talk about the situation. In our opinion, ignoring or shying away from how you are feeling really doesn’t help anyone. It turns certain conversations into a taboo. It can make those monsters grow into something unhealthy. Because of this, we always make sure that we are open and honest with the people are us. We try to make them see that it is okay to talk about those things that are difficult to say. It’s okay to admit that you feel rubbish. Or don’t agree with something. Or need a break. These conversations won’t lead to a disagreement or fall out. They will more than likely lead the support and comfort that you need.

Facing family monsters is something we are always going to experience, but we want to face them together. And having open and honest conversations is the way to do that. This doesn’t mean that those monsters will disappear altogether; but they can be managed and faced so that you don’t feel alone.

All families face monsters at some point. Watch and share our film so we can all talk about and face them together #MyFamilyMonsters www.familymonstersproject.com.