It doesn't feel like "us" and
"them." It feels like "me" and "everyone
else." When you're taking care of a loved one, you may think no
one else in the world understands what you're going through.
And to a certain extent, you're right.
No one else in the world has the same
combination as the two of you. Relationship. Illness or disability. Ages.
Locations. Living situation. Family history. Emotional,
psychological and spiritual strengths and weaknesses. There are an
infinite number of variables.
No wonder it's easy to assume that no one else
can even come close to comprehending what you're going through. No one
else can really help you.
Fortunately, that isn't true.
No matter where you are on that very broad
spectrum of "caregiving,"
there is a basic human need to talk about what is happening to you.
To tell someone what your questions are. Your
concerns. Your fears.
To say out loud, to give words to, the
confusing and overwhelming mix of emotions that are filling your mind
and your heart.
The temptation is to remain silent. To try to
tough it out. But then that inner turmoil will only get worse.
The excuse can be "our family just doesn't
do that." As if going for emotional help is a sign of weakness. An
admission of failure. It isn't. It's the same as seeking medical
attention for a physical problem. If you had an appendicitis, would you
simply "tough it out"?
But where can you go? To whom can you talk?
● For some caregivers the right
choice is to meet with a professional counselor in the field of aging.
This person will not supply "the answer." Rather, a counselor
is there to help you find the most workable solution. He or she can help
you identify and label some of the feelings you're having and explain
how typical, and normal, these emotions are for a person going through
all the things you are.
● Consider a professionally-run support
group. This is a good place to "dump" your feelings without
listeners jumping in with solutions or judgments. Sometimes it's easier
to "unload" when surrounded by concerned strangers rather than
family and friends.
A group like this also offers a feeling of
support from the sharing that takes place. And you can learn from other
people's experiences. This may not be a good choice if you cannot
set aside your caregiver role and you begin to pick up on and worry
about their problems. That doesn't help them or you.
● Remember the spiritual support
available from your parish priest. He can listen to you, pray with you,
offer the opportunities for the sacraments, and remind you that God is
always available for comfort and support.
● And a fourth possibility is finding a
friend who will listen to you. This needs to be someone to whom you can
say "I don't want answers, advice or solutions. I just need to
Some individuals, however well-intentioned,
can't help offering advice. That doesn't mean they aren't good people or
good friends. They just arenít the right ones to meet your needs in
A good way of telling if this is the right
person is the way you feel after you've talked to him or her. You
shouldn't feel worse. The point is to help you release some of the
pent-up emotions churning inside you, not add more to them.
The right friend for this task is one that
gives a feeling of taking care of you, of emotionally if not physically
putting an arm around you and holding you.
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