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Fire Under Snowflakes

Despite his best efforts to mediate and reconcile, his pleas fell on deaf ears as greed and resentment clouded his children’s judgment
12:00 AM Jun 02, 2024 IST | Dr. Showkat Rashid Wani
fire under snowflakes

Abdul Rehman (name changed), a dignified senior citizen had served the department of education as a dedicated teacher for almost 4 decades and retired as zonal education officer; he was a recipient of state best teacher award. I have a long association with this teacher. One day he visited the university campus on a sunny afternoon. As he made his way to my office chamber, I noticed his hesitant steps and the troubled lines on his forehead. I welcomed him into my office, offering him a seat by the window where the sunlight filtered through the mighty chinars of Naseem Bagh, casting a warm, comforting glow.


After exchanging polite greetings, I gently asked him what was disturbing him. Abdul Rehman sighed deeply before he began. “My children,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “They have been quarrelling incessantly over the property I own. I had hoped that in my old age, they would care for each other and for me, but instead, they are tearing the family apart.” He explained that he had five children—three sons and two daughters—all of whom he had raised with great love and sacrifice. He had divided his property equally among them in his will, thinking it would prevent any disputes. However, as soon as they became aware of the arrangements, conflicts arose. The siblings argued over the fairness of the distribution, with each one wanting a larger share or a more valuable piece of land. Listening to his story, I could sense the immense pain these conflicts had caused him. His eyes filled with tears as he spoke about the frequent arguments and the growing distance between his once-close children. “I don’t understand,” he bemoaned. “I worked so hard to provide for them, and now, in my old age, instead of peace, I am surrounded by turmoil.


Despite his best efforts to mediate and reconcile, his pleas fell on deaf ears as greed and resentment clouded his children’s judgment. The ordeal took a toll on Abdul Rehman’s mental and emotional well-being, leaving him feeling betrayed and abandoned by those he loved most. He watched helplessly as the family he had worked so hard to build crumbled before his eyes, replaced by bitterness and animosity. One particularly ugly episode had shaken Abdul Rehman to his core. It happened on a family gathering meant to celebrate Eid. The atmosphere had been tense from the start, with each sibling barely concealing their simmering resentments. As they sat down for dinner, a casual comment about the property sparked an argument between the eldest son, Ahmed, and his younger brother, Bilal. “Ahmed, you’ve always been selfish, trying to grab the best for yourself,” Bilal accused, his voice rising. “And you, Bilal, have always been lazy, expecting things to be handed to you,” Ahmed retorted, his face flushed with anger.


Their words quickly escalated, turning into a shouting match. The daughters, Fatima and Ayesha, tried to intervene, but soon they were dragged into the fray, taking sides and hurling accusations of their own. The grand -daughter, Sara, stood in the corner, tears streaming down her face as she watched her family disintegrate. In the heat of the argument, Ahmed stood up, knocking over his chair, and advanced towards Bilal, his fists clenched. “If you think you can push me around, you’re wrong,” he shouted. Bilal met him halfway, and they clashed, shoving each other violently. Plates and glasses were knocked over, shattering on the floor. Their mother screamed, trying to pull them apart, while Abdul Rehman, too frail to intervene, could only watch in horror. “Stop this madness!” he cried out, his voice trembling. “This is not what I raised you for.”


The sight of their father, tears in his eyes and desperation in his voice, finally broke through the siblings’ rage. They pulled apart, breathing heavily, the realization of their actions slowly dawning on them. The dinner was ruined, the festive spirit crushed under the weight of their anger. After narrating this incident Abdul Rehman wept bitterly. “I offered him a glass of water and gave him a few moments to collect himself. Then, I began to provide some counseling. I first acknowledged his feelings, validating the pain and disappointment he was experiencing. “It’s clear that you love your children deeply and that this situation is breaking your heart,” I said softly. “It’s important to remember that you’ve done your best as a father.” We then discussed the nature of family conflicts, especially those revolving around inheritance and property. I explained that such disputes, though painful, are unfortunately common and often rooted in deeper issues, such as unresolved sibling rivalries or feelings of entitlement.


While counseling Abdul Rehman, I employed a person-centered approach, focusing on empathy, active listening, and collaboration to help him explore his feelings, thoughts, and concerns related to the property dispute. Here’s how the counseling session was conducted:


Establishing Rapport: I began by creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere, establishing rapport with Abdul Rehman to build trust and a sense of safety.


Active Listening: I listened attentively as Abdul Rehman shared his story, validating his emotions, allowing him to express himself without judgment.

Exploring Emotions: I encouraged Abdul Rehman to explore his emotions surrounding the property dispute, helping him identify and articulate his feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal, or confusion. Through gentle probing questions, I helped him gain insight into the underlying causes of his emotional distress.

Identifying Coping Strategies: Together, we explored healthy coping strategies that Abdul Rehman could employ to manage his emotions and reduce stress. This might include relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, or engaging in activities that bring him joy and fulfillment.

Problem-Solving: We collaboratively identified specific challenges Abdul Rehman faced in the property dispute and brainstormed potential solutions. I encouraged him to consider different perspectives and evaluate the pros and cons of each option before making decisions.

Building Resilience: I highlighted Abdul Rehman’s strengths and resilience, affirming his ability to navigate difficult situations and adapt to change. By focusing on his internal resources and support network, I helped him develop a sense of empowerment and agency in addressing the challenges he faced.

Setting Goals: We worked together to establish realistic and achievable goals related to the property dispute, breaking them down into manageable steps. I encouraged Abdul Rehman to prioritize self-care and well-being while pursuing his objectives.

Follow-up and Support: I assured Abdul Rehman that counseling is a collaborative process, and I would be there to support him throughout his journey. We discussed the possibility of future sessions to check on his progress, reassess goals, and provide ongoing support as needed.


Note: Names in the article may not be real