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Harriet Berkal: The Dysfunctional Family

Harriet Berkal, June 4, 2023

The Dysfunctional Family
What denotes a family as “ NORMAL”?
Let’s assume we in general, view the “perfect” family as two parents united and with offspring or no children.


They never fight !
They never feel jealous of one another!
They share all the same political vantage points and never differentiate from one another.


So that means no sibling rivalry. No setbacks that require mediation. The road ahead is smooth and paved with gold.
There are no family secrets so when someone marries into the unit, they fit like a missing piece of the puzzle.


Sounds like nirvana does it not ?


In actuality, there are no “PERFECT” families nor would you want one.


For a group of people all coming from the same womb, we only grow by having our unique differences of opinion, style and interest.


But that utopia only exists if there is honesty, tolerance, and compassion. Without that, you can end up in a catastrophic state with lingering resentment towards your brethren, only to dissolve or damage the nuclear family unit.


We only need look to the Royal family to witness the extremes within their structure, to see how easy it is for things to implode and there quite publicly.


But I’ve heard it all. Most of us have. Are we obligated to tell one another amongst close relatives if one person has had surgeries or if one carries a genetic disorder which may very well affect the others ?


What if there is tremendous family discourse and a patriarch passed away ? Do we act like menche and share that vital information? I most definitely would.


The feuds can get rather nasty and if you are lucky, one day you can reach some resolution.
But pain may not heal quickly or ever and it will likely carry over to the next generation. What a horrible shame.


My philosophy is to try and make peace if possible ( there are exceptions to that rule ) because I grew up under the guidance of a learned man, who always wanted and valued family unity.


Why is it better to have pleasant discord amongst relatives ?


What if something fatal were to happen and the injured party didn’t have an opportunity to make peace with a loved one?


In your mind, you may have written that person off forever, but in actuality, you may desire to bid them farewell and even wish for mutual forgiveness.


There is such a gross ugliness to family fighting, which if left unresolved, can lead to chronic stress, which then may manifest as illness.


Isn’t it worth the effort to treat one another with dignity and respect, because at the very basic level, you shared how many meals with this person growing up? You share family memories of trips, simchas and the death of elders.


Your early childhood was possibly influenced by this or that sibling. They did have an impact on who you are today.


Of course there may be exceptions to this rule. If one too many olive branches have been broken, it may be in your best interest to make the best of life without that person(s) in your sphere.


Only you can decide that for yourself!


People can be quick to cut others off. They are reactive. The injustice or infraction is that much more personal if it’s from a relative.


Two people fall in love. They start a family with the very best intentions. It’s their desire that their children flourish and interact well with one another. But s**t happens all the time. That dream of investing in one’s family doesn’t guarantee a future filled with cohesive ties.


It saddens me to hear of discord between individuals who used to be close. They were the ones you could rely on at all times. You could see each other’s reflection in the mirror and recognize it as familiar.


But with time, and the expansion of the family, the dynamics may very well change.


If you have a cohesive unit, don’t take it for granted. As it can change on a dime.


There are no “givens” in life. Life has become far more complicated in these past 3 years. Think how many COVID patients didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one, not to mention saying “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you !”


Families can be very complicated. Water this garden as it has the potential to flourish.


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