Family Hope

As a coping characteristic, hope is individualistic, and persons have various capacities for hoping and different approaches to maintaining hope. Personal hope is embedded in a broad social context. The way you hope develops within a particular family culture and within an historical framework and set of experiences.

Families also have well-established ways of hoping. The way your family of origin views hope and the strategies they use to maintain it have had an impact on how you currently hope. The people with whom you now live also influence how and for what you hope. These patterns are called “family hope constellations,” and it is important to realize family differences with regard to hope.

For example, if you come from a religious family, your family may use religion as its primary hoping mechanism. As a result, statistics and medical facts may not be as important to this family because they know that “it is all in the hands of God,” or that “only God can know what will happen.”

Prayer might be their (and your) major hoping strategy. You might draw great strength from the support of your pastor or priest or rabbi. On the other hand, if religion and religious activities are not major focal points in your family of origin or in your current life, another hope constellation will predominate. If you come from a family with a strong emphasis on education and academics, you may find that the family relies more on a “research” basis for hope. Their hoping strategies may consist of obtaining and reading as much information as possible about your disease and about possible treatments and positive outcomes. They may use cancer information telephone and computer services, encourage you to get second, third and even more opinions, and to contact various cancer specialists and professionals around the country for their input and support.

Another family may be less driven to get volumes of information about cancer, or may find it anxiety producing to have so many facts to sort through or to try to understand various theories and research studies.

Instead, they put all of their faith in their own doctor or health care team and rely on these professionals as their main source of information and support. This family may find patient and community support groups especially helpful.