Family, Grief, Research

Ties that Bind

There are things that I am afraid to put into writing for fear of making them too real.

For this week’s post, I had planned to write a lighthearted self-reflection on something or other. Then the past few days happened. Without going into specifics, these days have been tough beyond measure. All lightheartedness instantly evaporated. The importance of strong family relationships took over my field of vision and was reinforced more than ever.

I am part of a large extended family. The dynamics are sometimes messy, sometimes complicated and seldom quiet. Despite occasional squabbles, our family pack is a good place to be. Our bonds are strong.

In the past few days, these ties have been tested. Despite the size of our brood, every single individual has risen above their own pain to help one another. The cohesiveness of our fold has been commented upon by many.

In a previous post, I highlighted current research that has shown that nurturing and supportive family relationships can decrease stress levels. I looked specifically at expanding research that argues that family relationships can provide stimulation, purpose, a sense of connection and validation, especially when we are no longer in the workplace.

This past week, I was repeatedly struck by family members, at all stages of life, supporting each other. They each demonstrated incredible acts of selflessness, at the most difficult of times. I looked again at studies on families with this lens. The research was abundant.

Below is a small highlight of a smattering of takeaways that I discovered when barely scratching the surface of available sources.

Your Mom CAN Make It Better – In a 2010 study, conducted at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers found that children who spoke with their mothers following a stressful situation, showed increased levels of oxytocin (believed to decrease our stress response). <a href=”http://(Source. This phenomenon has caused some researchers to comment that “Mothers know without being instructed how to soothe a child.” Source I was fortunate to be with my own mother at the start of this terrible week. In my case, I totally agree with this research.

Being a Parent May Increase Your Life Expectancy –

A study of 21,276 couples from Denmark, revealed that parents (both mothers and fathers) were four times less likely to die early from accidents, cancer, or other specific diseases. Although these results contradict the findings of many earlier studies, this does seem like a nice reward for all of those sleepless nights! Source

Caring for Others Helps Us Take Better Care of Ourselves-
Various bodies of research now suggest that taking care of people that we love may help us to take better care of ourselves. Included in this research is evidence that our immune function and stress regulation is improved when we are around our family and close friends. Source As you may have already suspected, according to researchers, family and friends are very influential in terms of our lifestyle.Source In one study, “36 percent of people say their nutrition is affected by influence from their friends and family. And 46 percent of people in the survey said that their loved ones make a difference in their overall healthy lifestyles.” Source

Siblings Decrease Loneliness and Increase Happiness –
Although much of this research was conducted on sisters, studies have shown that having a sibling is good for your mental health, and can help people (especially preteens) feel less lonely/less self-conscious and happier. Having a sibling was also linked with greater family communication as well as more inclination to do good deeds. Source

Blood Just May Be Thicker Than Water –
New studies from the University of Toronto reveal that, for seniors, having close relationships with family members is more important than friendships, especially in terms of life expectancy. According to this study, retirees who were very close with family members had lower mortality rates than those who relied solely on close friendships. (11th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association). Source

The pain of this past week will remain in the hearts of my family forever. But the selfless acts of family members that we witnessed again and again will equally never fade. I am immensely proud and grateful to be part of such an incredible family pack.

18 thoughts on “Ties that Bind”

  1. Sorry to hear that you’ve had a rough time. It seems that we can bump merrily along for quite a while, but inevitably the sadnesses in life catch up with us. I’m so glad you’ve got a strong family unit to sustain you.

    Please know that your friends love you ( even the long-lost ones).



  2. My apologies to Kate, Aiqin, Doug and Pat. I accidentally deleted their comments from this page and was not able to restore them. I did find three of the comments and have copied them below. My apologies to Pat–I believe your comment (on this post) is lost forever.
    All comments on this post (here, on my FB page, and via private messaging) have been greatly appreciated at this time.

    I wish you the best. I’ve also been in a family crisis and am always amazed at how family pulls together when they need to. My mom has been gone since 86 and I still wish she was here to talk me through stuff.

    Doug Illman
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and family at this time….blessings

    I truly believe you can get through anything with your family’s support. I love to see the research quoted by you. I feel that everything we do in the family is worthy and provide self satisfaction.
    Take good care!


  3. Know that not only your family’s love and support are with you, but that of your global friends – we are all behind you. Take care of yourself. Love and smiles across these miles.


    1. Thanks, Catherine – Richard and I are extremely grateful for the overwhelming support of our global friends, and all of our friends and family near and far. All of the well wishes, kind words and virtual hugs have been more helpful to us than my words can express.
      Warmly, Donna


  4. Strong families and family members (and close friends) know and live the value of ‘paying it forward’ without restraint or calulation. Such acts, both small and large, are the glue that binds, the net that supports, and the mutually reinforcing chain that strengthens the weakest link so that together, each link can better withstand the travails of life. Take care and know that you are in our thoughts. Sabina


    1. Hi, Sabrina – It is such a pleasure to hear from you. Richard and I both greatly appreciate your wise words and have taken them to heart. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting.


  5. So sorry to hear that you are going through such a painful time. Family is so important during life’s struggles. My mother-in-law is slowly slipping away from us because of dementia, but we are all standing by each other and trying our best to accompany her through this heart-wrenching disease. Strong family ties make this situation that much easier to face.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Donna.


    1. Thanks, Marilyn. I agree that family and friends can make an incredible difference when facing life’s struggles. I am also sending virtual hugs to you and your family as you face your own challenging time.


    1. Hi, Tom – My husband and I are very grateful to have such a strong, supportive family. We have also been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends near and far, including virtual ones. It is incredible how comforting all kind words have been. Thank you so much for adding yours.
      Warmly, Donna


  6. I’m sending warm wishes and cyber hugs to you and your family.
    The expression that “sorrow shared is sorrow halved” is so true when there is a strong network of family and friends to provide support for each other.
    I hope that this coming week is less terrible than last week {{hugs}}


  7. My heart is hurting for you, my friend. It is so important to have the solid support of family and friends at times like this, and I’m glad you have so many people who love and care for each other surrounding you. You and I have have written about the special closeness of the blogging community… and it’s true. I know that all of us are sending you virtual hugs and warm, positive thoughts.


    1. Hi, Janis – I greatly appreciate your kind words and warm thoughts. It was barely over a week ago when you and I were commenting about the usual positive focus of both of our blogs. I said at that time that I was not sure what I would do when faced with a tragic situation. Would I include it in my writing, or would I let my page go dark? Writing has become a very powerful tool for me to reflect and release. You are right about the special closeness of the on-line community. My family and I have been deeply touched by the support and concern that has been expressed by so many.


  8. Donna – thanks for letting me know my comments were lost to the blog-o-sphere. (that is actually 2 in one week – sigh – something must be trying to tell me something). I am so very glad you have the support of your family; I know you are personally grateful for it as well. And I agree, writing can be a powerful tool to help process the feelings at both the good times and the bad times. May your family and friends (both IRL and virtual) help you through this very tough time.


  9. Hi Donna. I’m so sorry to hear that you are going through a tough time at the moment. It is so very hard to lose someone you love but having a lifetime of memories with her/him and being able to share them together with the people who love you and who you love can make an incredible difference as you move forward. Thinking of you and sending warm thoughts across the skies. Rachel x


  10. Dear Donna:
    I am so sorry to hear that your family has experienced a recent tragedy. I agree that the bonds of family are most valued at difficult times, and I hope that as time passes, you find a sense of healing.

    I admire your courage in writing about your grief. This summer, along with the joys of reconnecting with family and friends, we also experienced two deaths. I have not yet been able to write about our “summer of death.”



    1. Hi, Jude – Thank you for your kind words. I am so sorry to hear about the tragedies that you experienced this summer.
      In my case, I wrote ‘around’ the topic, predominantly for the privacy of my family. Key family members have now asked if I would write more about this when I was ready. I think that this is something that I can write further about in a Christmas/New Year reflection. Once again, I was honored to have my family’s incredible support and encouragement.


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