Your grief is real. As a physician assistant, I often saw patients come in with their spouses. After giving them an unsettling diagnosis, the spouse wanted the best for them and genuinely loved them. I wanted the best for them, too.
As we would discuss treatment plans, the patient might not agree. We can all tell when someone “stops listening”. We think it is the shock, but it is actually the grief beginning to emerge.
I remember one patient telling me the reason he couldn’t control his blood pressure was that his wife stood at the door every time he came into the house with a blood pressure cuff.
That alone raised his blood pressure. We mean well, but we have got to let our loved ones deal with their disease, disability, or illness on their own terms.
Tip #1: Have you ever found yourself saying…?
“ I want to tell my loved one that I know a better way, but he won’t listen.” or “I’m angry that she is not listening when I am trying to help.”
If there is ONE thing that all medical providers understand is this…
Your loved one can only put his or her trust in one thing.
To add more is to confuse. They ARE listening. It’s just in their own capacity.
They know the energy, mental, and physical awareness they have. They are doing their best.
We, as caregivers and medical providers, must give them that. To add more? Well, they do not have the energy, physical, mental, or emotional abilities to trust in another path, yours or even mine. This is one of the reasons you will never see physicians reprimand, criticize, or bully a patient.
Tip #2 “I don’t know what to say to him, or how to act around him.”
A wife came into my office one day recognizing her own grief at the thought her husband was dying. She wanted to help him, talk to him about his final preparations, but she didn’t know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. She felt like someone had placed duct tape over her mouth. She was screaming inside and couldn’t get the words out.
As my daughter, who is a clinical psychologist explained to me, “Mom, she said, “when someone is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease, or near the end of their lives, most family members no longer see them as the person they are. “For example”, she explained, “He is not lymphoma. He is your SON with lymphoma.” This again reminded me of how we treat our patients. We see them always as humans first, never putting the disease before them.
Try seeing your loved one as the same person they have always been. Laugh with them, love them. Put their humanness and your relationship with them first.
Tip #3 You are in grieving mode, too.
Another point my daughter brought up to me was the grief both patient and caregiver have.
I often suggested that family members talk with a counselor. I never really understood why. I knew it helped but I saw it as a way to talk about their frustration, exhaustion, and overwhelment.
But Sarah clarified this for me. She said, “You are in grieving mode. Your grief has already started. Your grief begins long before this person passes. You will find yourself grieving but not identifying it as such. Helping someone you love is normal. But remember this person you love so dearly is doing all they can do right now. Since your grief is already very real, consider a counselor, friend, or minister to talk to. Learn the stages of grief. Expect that some stages will come on stronger than others. Some stages will last longer than others. Everyone is different but this one thing we know:
your grief is real, and it is best to acknowledge it so you can get through this, too.”
Remember, you have enough to do emotionally, mentally, and physically. Don’t “guess” at what comes next. Pick up a copy of THE ULTIMATE CAREGIVER’S GUIDE.
It’s packed with tips on how you can get time off to process you own feelings. But as caregivers, we are so consumed with overdelivering that we often bury the moments we need with busy work our seniors don’t need. Check out Section six which helps you with these feelings of loneliness and grief.
CLICK HERE for THE ULTIMATE CAREGIVER’S GUIDE.