Vanderpump Rules' Jax Taylor and fiancée Brittany Cartwright were missing one very important guest at their surprise engagement party, thrown by fellow SURver Stassi Schroeder. His mom — who Jax admits he hasn't spoken to since his father passed away last December.
She was invited, but since their loss, the family unit has broken down.
"I wish my mom would've responded," Jax told Brittany. "That kind of hurts my feelings a little bit, but that's OK."
Jax explained: "I used to be very close to my mom. Everybody's like, I love your mom. We really haven't communicated in the last six months, pretty much since my father [Ronald Cauchi] passed [in December 2017]. Their marriage was on the rocks; she was talking about leaving my dad about a year before he got cancer. Toward the end, my mom would say, 'Oh, he's fine.' We didn't know he was in ICU; I would have been there in a heartbeat if I knew he was in ICU. I mean, I get it, my mother's trying to protect my sister and I, but I should have been able to say goodbye to my dad."
"I haven't really spoken to my mother since my dad's funeral," Jax said. "So it's been really tough. It's nothing she did, really... well, I don't know, I don't want to get into it. I hope in time, God willing, that we can smooth things over. I just don't know."
Grief counselor Jill Cohen tells Personal Space that there are so many reasons why families can be torn apart after the death of a loved one in the family.
"One is guilt — guilt about how things were handled or not handled by family members. Guilt about who did more of the help or less of the help if a loved one was sick for a long time. Also, everyone has different styles of grieving and of coping," she adds. "Family members do not understand each other's ways so they form their own impressions of how a parent or sibling is reacting (looks like she didn't really care; looks like he thinks he was more present and more important during the sickness or death; he or she is trying to control the situation). Really, you can't know about each other simply by trying to read their emotions."
Cohen adds that big decisions can tear families apart: "Are we selling the house, moving closer to the other family members? Whose responsibility is it to help the remaining family members if they need help and support? When do we clear out the material items? These can for sure tear a family apart. Money. It is often said that 'money is the root of all evil' for a good reason. Money issues arise immediately upon the death of a family member and how they are handled can divide people irreparably."
Cohen says that people often take on a different character after the death of a loved one and that can be confusing to the others as well. "Why is she all of a sudden a control freak? Why is he acting like he was more important than the others in the life of the deceased? Why is he/she all of a sudden acting like a crazy person?"
Grief can bring out the best in families, but it can also bring out the very worst. "Emotions run high and deep," Cohen says. "They differ from moment to moment and can bring about strong feelings of separateness or even just plain hatred and disillusion in families. Time can heal, Counseling can help. And restrategizing or rethinking the situation with all of the family members together can help too."
Joanne Harpel, grief counselor, says when someone is feeling intense emotions such as grief and sorrow, it’s common to also feel other intense emotions, such as anger or resentment, too. "Often, people have very different ways of coping," she explains. "Some want to talk about their feelings, cry, be very close with other family members, create a sense of connection around their loss. For them, grieving is a communal, rather than a solitary act. Others handle their emotions very differently — through taking action, setting goals, dealing with their emotions privately — they don’t want to talk about it because that’s not what they find comforting. It can be tremendously stressful and upsetting for family members to experience these differences and can lead to judgment and feelings of abandonment."
She says it can be very difficult, even for loving, well-meaning people, to fully be there for one another when they’re all grieving the same loss at the same time. "Everyone is so deep in their own experience and feeling so raw that it can be hard to have an accurate understanding of someone else’s experience," Harpel says. "One analogy that I often use with clients is when you have two people on a boat in rough seas, when one is seasick and the other isn’t. Even though they’re ostensibly having a shared objective experience (the boat ride), their subjective experience is completely different and neither one is capable of truly and fully appreciating what the other one is feeling. This, too, can lead to feelings of being misunderstood, judged, or abandoned."
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