Aug 25 2014

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

I have a soft spot for girly movies. Ok, you’re right, I am a girl! And while I also do love a movie that makes me laugh out loud, every once in a while I like to snuggle up with some tissues and a good tear-jerker!

Surprisingly, Saving Mr. Banks, Disney’s movie about the production of the movie Mary Poppins, turned out to be one of these tear-jerker’s for me.  My motivation to watch the movie was my interest in learning more about Walt Disney himself, and I wasn’t expecting to become emotionally involved.

P.L. Travers is the author of Mary Poppins. As Walt Disney attempts to gain the movie rights to the book, you learn of the heart-wrenching loss and trauma Travers experienced as a child. Her father is a fun-loving alcoholic who has a hard time dealing with the real world, and eventually, he dies. This sends Travers’ mother, who already suffered from depression, into a suicidal state and results in Travers’ saving her mother from attempted suicide.

These experiences resonated with me personally; as a child I experienced the fall-out of my parents’ relationship, resulting in separation and divorce. Then my mom died of pancreatic cancer when I was 13. The similar portrayal of a parent suffering and the experience for the child brought back so many memories. (Click here for a more detailed analysis of Saving Mr. Banks.)

As an adult, I often reflect back on the grief and pain, and how its impact on my life has changed over the years. I find much comfort from my only sibling, my sister, as my companion in grief. Even though we are only 3 years apart in age, our memories and experiences are so different! I also feel a strong bond with other women who lost their moms at a young age. The loss of a loved one, and all of the emotions tied to the loss – regret, guilt, anger, fear, sadness – can create a sense of loneliness that can only be shared and understood by others who have experienced the same pain.

In family businesses, loss and grief often occur in transitions and changes in leadership. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Not everyone goes through every stage or in any particular order, and that is ok.

How your family chooses to grieve loss depends on individual personalities and your family’s culture. Being open, honest and vulnerable about your feelings can help alleviate the loneliness experienced during these times. Being with others who have experienced the same kind of feelings can also help. The FORUM, being connected with other business families who have travelled the same path, along with professional advisors, provides a safe environment for sharing, learning and growing.

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but contact us today to help you navigate the complex, emotional journey inherent in family businesses.

By Beth Goshow, Communications Assistant, Delaware Valley Family Business Center

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