An Ocean Apart
A strong capable mother and her four adult daughters had not all been in the same room together for five years. Half of the family lived in Hawaii, and the other half in California. The mother, we’ll call her Amelia, has epilepsy, which manifests itself in periodic grand mal seizures. She had a seizure recently while driving and, although, fortunately, no one was hurt, the car was totaled. All of the daughters wanted to know what was going on with their mother, help come up with a plan for her future and establish a better way to communicate. They also wanted to discuss Amelia’s end of life wishes. Because of their heated tempers and strong personalities, all attempts to communicate as a group within the last ten years had turned into fights and angry exchanges. They sensed that, without the help of a neutral facilitator, they would be unable to talk calmly through these issues and come to a meeting of the minds.
They were awkward with each other at the start of the mediation, some unable to make eye contact with their family members throughout the morning. We started the mediation by giving each woman the opportunity to speak, uninterrupted, about the concerns that brought her to mediation and about her goals for the mediation.
We then worked through the agenda, and despite the lack of trust that had grown between the women over the years, we were able to create an environment in which they were able to express their needs and fears, their shared concern for the well-being of the mom, and reestablish their family bonds.
Many tears were shed throughout the day, and, once we led them past the awkwardness of coming together after five years apart, the room was often filled with laughter, hugs and giggles. These five wonderful women collapsed into a group hug at about 5 p.m. having overcome their mistrust of each other, which allowed them then to address and resolve so many of their issues. Through mediation they accomplished their goal to improve family communication and to, once again, be an active part of each other’s lives.