Family Matters Really Matter

Family Matters Really Matter

I am the youngest of 5 children by many years. My oldest sibling is 15 years older than I am. My closest sibling in age is 7 years older.

Angela Hayes Consequently, all but one of my brothers and sisters were in college just as I was starting kindergarten. One result of this was that my siblings tended to see me as a child even when I was in my 40s and 50s. Until fairly recently, they would ask me to step out of the room if they were going to swear. That’s a ridiculous notion for many reasons, but just one is that I worked as a therapist for 10 years and in other jobs where, at this point, I can say that there is absolutely nothing I haven’t seen and/or heard.

They have seen me differently in the last couple of years, mostly because as they are getting older there are difficult and emotional decisions to be made. For example, we lost my oldest brother to cancer last year. He was fourteen years older than I am. There was understandably a lot of upheaval at all levels of our family and extended family during the time of his illness, his passing, and the aftermath. Although I was close to my brother, I had no memories of him as a child, adolescent, or even young adult. Consequently, my siblings, who did have all these memories and connections had a very difficult time from the time of his diagnosis to his death two months later. They seemed “frozen” in many ways. Even my oldest sister who has always been the designated person in charge seemed unable to function. She was only ten months older than my brother, so they have always been very close.

I decided to use my knowledge of Resilient Leadership to help guide my family through this very difficult time.

I was the one who stayed in contact with all family members about what was happening, organized aspects of care for him and his family, stepped in to talk to doctors on behalf of my sister-in-law, and helped her and my brother make end of life decisions. There was also a great deal of infighting about whether to tell my 95-year-old mother what was happening. My two sisters-in-law had not seen her for a long time (due to Covid restrictions) and had no idea how much she had deteriorated cognitively. Both insisted (in ways that my two older sisters found offensive) that she be told immediately. I talked with each person separately and got everyone to agree that we would consult a specialist at my mother’s care home to decide if she should be told. We all agreed to abide by that decision. I also worked with my siblings to create a shared eulogy and worked with friends of my brother in Washington State to create a Zoom room so that the rest of the family could “be present” for the funeral. One of my brother’s last wishes was that we do not travel to his funeral because the Covid rate was very high in that area.

I firmly believe that my Resilient Leadership training is what allowed me to effectively take the lead for my family during this time. I stayed calm and acted as a step-down transformer no matter who was yelling what. I stayed connected by listening intensely to each person and taking the actionable pieces of what each family member was saying to incorporate it into our plans. I maintained a healthy level of self-differentiation when dealing with triangles, connected people to talk to each other directly instead of venting to me or others, stayed the course in terms of what I knew my brother wanted, and was also able to lead the efforts with the conviction of what was right for my brother, his family, and his family of origin.

I learned a lot during this very difficult time as I watched the principles of Resilient Leadership in action. I have to say that, as much as I deeply believe in these concepts, I was still surprised at how well they worked in such trying circumstances. I’ve continued to rely on these concepts and practices to navigate relationships within my family. We’ve experienced some additional difficult times since my brother’s death. It’s clear that my family “sees” me differently. I tend to be the first one someone calls now, instead of the last one to know because they want to protect their little sister.

Angela Hayes

Angela Hayes
To learn more about Resilient Leadership concepts and resources or to explore opportunities for Resilient Leadership Coaching or Training contact Angela at

Associate Director, Alumni and Online Career Engagement
Career EducationLeadership Team
(970) 491-5494

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