If you haven't already, read my prior two blogs by scrolling down.
When I was going through treatment, I was a bit wrapped up in my own emotional overload. There were times, however, when I looked at my parents and thought, "Oh my gosh, I wonder what this is like for them?" Little did I know....
Let's give you a view from the caregiver/supporter side of helplessness and guilt. Having to take over and care for you loved one rips you away from your life, just as it does for him or her. All the focus and concern, however, is directed at the patient while you are on a private emotional roller coaster for which you may fear your patient, survivor, or others might detect.
You try to stay strong, suffering in silence as you anguish for you loved one and the life changes that are occurring. You may become angry or bitter that you’ve been put in this situation. You feel your life is on hold while your loved one fights the good fight. You're being tasked to do something you never could have predicted; halting your life for someone else's.
In the same moment, you can’t believe you feel this way, or even let yourself feel this way. You feel helpless to control the day to day and eventual outcome of your loved one and want to make it easier, more comfortable for them. Not only that, you are the interface between everyone wanting to know how things are going, what they can do, etc. So, there is helplessness, difficult emotions, then “I can’t believe I’m angry, I feel so guilty for being angry.”
Sounds crazy, right? You are not crazy, you are a completely rational and reasonable person having to cope with an unpredictable and extra-ordinary circumstance. Yours is a perfectly rational and expected response.
While the patient/survivor is allowed and even encouraged to express feelings (and given many opportunities through support groups and services), the supporter is not. In a group I was leading for caregivers, they all complained that patients and survivors have a plethora of support while there is “nothing” for them. I know, I get the irony. I was leading a support group for caregivers, and they complained there’s no support for them. They’re right, however. This group meets on a monthly basis, and the participants deserve far more than that.
Let’s face it, supporters are the unsung heroes, quietly doing everything they can while second guessing themselves along the way. I hear you! It’s not fair that your loved one is suffering, and it’s not fair that you have to put your life on hold to care for them.
So, let’s get to the helplessness/guilt roller coaster for y’all. Now, I love a good roller coaster, but this one is ridiculous. As a survivor and a supporter, the roller coasters are similar, but the supporter’s one doesn’t let you raise your hands in the air and scream. Just go ahead and try to ride one without having emotions and with your hands laying comfortably in your lap. Yeah, that’s what it’s like.
Helplessness comes in so many forms as a supporter. There are many reasons why you feel helpless; I’ll list just some here:
· You can’t control what’s happening
· You can’t protect your loved one
· You are likely new to all of this and don’t know if you’re doing things “right”
· You can’t walk away
· You must deal with the situation at hand, but you’re not a doctor
· You don’t know the “medical language,” it’s like a foreign one
· You’re unsure what your role really is
· You don’t know if what you’re doing is helping
· You don’t know how to answer your loved one’s questions
· You can’t predict a darn thing
· You can’t stop
· This is a new role you haven’t prepared for
· You’re trying your best but you’re fearful it’s not enough
· You’re wondering how to handle the rise and fall of your loved one’s emotions
· You have no one to talk to about what’s going on with your emotions
· You aren’t getting breaks you so desperately need to take care of yourself
I could go on, add your own as you experience them. For every point above there is a boomerang effect. Check out the fourth one down, “You can’t walk away.” On occasion I would feel helpless and exhausted. I wanted to stop, to go away, but I couldn’t. And the boomerang? As soon as I thought this I felt guilty, because my loved one couldn’t stop, couldn’t take a break from cancer. How could I possibly think of taking a break when he was so sick and in need of my help. It was heart wrenching, I couldn’t believe I even had the thought. But know, please, this is completely natural AND an important, inner voice is telling you it’s time to take care of yourself, you are out of gas and need to fill ‘er up!
This is the life of the supporter. And not only that, but the supporter is typically the voice of the patient/survivor when people call, email, text, or otherwise reach out to see how he or she is doing. You are the gateway to your loved one as you protect him or her from expending energy fielding such communications.
Here’s what I want to say to all you amazing supporters: You are not in control, no one is in control save for your faith in your Creator. It’s completely normal to feel helpless and all the other feelings that may concurrently incite a guilty conscience. It’s because you love your patient/survivor, it’s because you want to go beyond your very best to help them survive and heal, it’s because you’d take their place in a heartbeat if you could. You are a superhero. You put on your cape before you get up in the morning, you take care of as much as you can, and your take off your cape only after your loved one is sleeping soundly for the night.
Make space during the day to take off that cape. Just because your loved one can’t take a break, you NEED to take moments to feel, to recharge, to think and dream of something else besides reality.
How? Call on all those folks who are reaching out to you and your loved one. They usually don’t know how they can help, let them know. Ask them to bring a dinner, ask them to stay with your loved one for a few hours while you go get your hair cut, go to a movie, or for a walk on the beach or in the woods.
Here’s the deal, they feel helpless, too! Pick someone who’s a natural organizer of people, let him or her know what you need, and let that person arrange it. You may want to designate someone to field and respond to all the concerned inquiries, so you aren’t constantly retelling the same story over and over. By leaning on your supporters, you accomplish at least two things. You make them feel helpful and you give yourself some needed time to recharge.
By asking someone to be with your loved one gives him or her a break from you and provides a novelty experience that takes your loved one out of the usual daily pattern. Refreshing.
So, get ready to receive help. You deserve it, you need it, and you must accept it. It’s a win-win all around. Your friends feel helpless, give them a specific job and they’ll feel help-full!
Take advantage of my deeply discounted coaching consultation where we can address any of your troubles or concerns so you will know what to do next. Click here to schedule: Work With Krista
Change in mood can happen with a change in environment. Move your furniture around, add color you love, or, one of my favorites, diffuse essential oils to reassure and support your mind and heart. Click here to purchase oils I’ve personally selected for caregivers/supporters. I use these oils regularly because I’ve experienced their benefits.
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