On Coping Through a Loved One’s Illness
I wish I could write on what’s actually important. I wish I had the experience to do that. Living with chronic illness is something that I’ve never done, but I’ve definitely seen. I wish I could take the pain away, I wish I could take it all away. All I can do is write on what I know – sitting helpless on the outside. And this is important – because even though we are not chronically ill, we have been affected by it greatly. So I try to write to you now to let you know that I am here with you, just as I am here with Her.
Watching a loved one die slowly of a long, horrible disease can put you into a state of mourning that can last for years. You experience anxiousness, guilt, anger, and uncontrollable sadness. When I talk to my sister on the phone, I hear her pain in her voice, I know what’s going on in her body, and I feel all these things at once. This is common. So here are a few tips to deal with these emotions and cope through being the survivor.
First, get some help. Mourning is something you can’t do alone if you want to keep your life in balance or at least livable. Therapy is the best option, there’s no shame in talking to a professional. Make sure to feel out your therapist. Ask questions, think about whether you’re comfortable with the answers. Keep in mind your religious or non-religious preferences. In many cases, you are allowed to switch therapists if you need to. If it’s not a good match, then it can do damage rather than help. So make sure you get a therapist that you are comfortable and can be honest with.
Ask about medication. When you get a therapist, they will evaluate your condition and can refer you to a medication manager. You may need some type of pharmaceutical help as well. Don’t shy away from this – it can be very helpful especially in cases of anxiety or depression. Again, there’s no shame in doing this. I know that mental health problems are surrounded by stigma and we are working to crush that. But until then, we just have to hold our heads up high and know that we are doing this for us and not anybody else.
Guilt over a loved one’s illness is a big problem for many of us. How do you overcome guilt? Well first you need to be talking to your therapist about it. Second, learn the practice of meditation. Prayer is good for those who believe, but meditation is good for everybody. Studies show that meditation can increase awareness and help you relax. Look into some of these techniques and see which one is right for you. It may be difficult at first to “get it” but keep going – it gets easier.
Anger can also be a major problem when you’re watching a loved one progressively get worse over time. With chronic illness, we know that there’s only one way that it ends. Sometimes we think of our loved ones as already dead. Sometimes we turn from our faith. Sometimes we self-destruct. Sometimes, our anger gets the better of us and we live in a constant state of madness. Anger is something that I don’t really understand. I don’t know the mechanics of it, where it comes from, or what its purpose is. All I know is that to get over it, you need outside support and internal work. Meditation is good for calming anger. Any techniques that you use for anxiety are good as well. It can also be important to sit with your anger. Feel it, acknowledge it, and respect what it means for you. Just don’t stay there forever.
Anxiety can plague your entire existence. I’ve gone over how to help with anxiety and other posts, but in this one, I need to go over it again. When you’re experiencing anxiety, the best thing to do is to try and calm yourself as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to sing. Singing stimulates your vagal nerve and in doing so tells your brain and your body to calm down. This is because when you sing you’re getting more oxygen to your brain and stabilizing the tone of your vagal nerve, which affects your fight or flight response. Another great thing you can do for anxiety is to practice breathing exercises. There are many of these all available to you on Google. Here again, meditation has a great calming effect. Occasionally, taking a nap is a good idea because you can wake up fresh and restart your day in the way that you see fit.
Uncontrollable sadness can also run your life if you let it. You need to remember that it’s important to feel your sadness. Sit in it, be with it. Ponder the depth of your sadness and everything that it contains. Cry. It is healthy. Yet sometimes it can be so overwhelming that it threatens to swallow you whole. If you’ve reached this point, please get help immediately. Suicide is a threat here. Nobody wants you to get to that point. Moving on from sadness can be nearly impossible, but you can do it. Talk to your therapist, make sure you are taking your meds correctly if you’re on them. Talk to your friends and other people in your support system that you can count on. You can come out of this.
When you are faced with a loved one’s chronic illness, and you are sitting helpless, there’s not much you can do to change the situation. All you can do really is still at that person know that you are there for them and you can help them in any way you can. When you’re not close enough to help, it can hurt. So make sure to keep in contact with them so that you can at least have some peace in the knowledge that you are there to support them. For those of you out there who are in this position, I am here with you. I feel you. And I feel for you. It’s a difficult road, but it’s the road we must walk down. Don’t turn away from yourself in this time. Practice self-care, get yourself help, and stick by your loved one’s side. Until next time,