Loving and caring for a loved one who has a life-long illness is an emotional roller-coaster ride ranging from disbelief, anger, fear, hope, depression, indifference to acceptance and moving forward. Your thoughts and feelings can swing minute-by minute, hourly, daily or weekly. Each thought or feeling has an impact, physically and mentally and it results in our attitude, which is either positive or negative.
This is better known as a change cycle or grief cycle. The whirlwind of emotional heartache and grief is characterized by abrupt and extreme changes of ups and downs, and twists and turns. Each stage has thoughts, feelings and emotions that occur and they are not necessarily experienced by everyone or in a predetermined order. It is different for everyone and extremely normal reaction to heartache and grief.
So the good news is you are normal.
When you are taking care of someone who has a chronic illness it can keep you on this roller-coaster ride indefinitely. Why? Because there are so many triggers that set the cycle in motion again and again.
So the questions are, how do you gain control of your thoughts? How can you better manage your feelings? How can you let go of fear and anger? How can you gain balance in your life? How can you take control of this ride?
There is a saying that time heals. This is partially true; it’s what you do with the time that helps you heal. It is the action steps that you take that propel you forward.
Here is a 4- step process to help you start.
HONOR your emotions and feelings. Acknowledge, validate and identify. Give yourself permission to feel. Stop, look and listen. What are you experiencing? Is it Anger? Fear? Excitement? Tuning into your emotions helps you to distinguish the similar yet subtle differences, between emotions like fear and excitement. At a second glance you can see and feel them clearly. After you tune in, ask yourself what you are truly feeling. Then you have a clearer understanding of the slight differences. They are real and you are normal to feel them.
EXPERIENCE the process. Yes it is a rollercoaster ride; however being aware makes the journey a little less bumpy. Feel and describe the sensations in your body. How quick is your heart beating? How tense are your shoulders and neck? What is the feeling in your stomach? How is your breathing? Recognizing the physical signs creates insights into how your body reacts to your emotions and feelings. When you are ready close your eyes and begin to relax the area of your body that is responding to your emotions to bring it back into harmony.
LEARN how to raise your awareness and take responsibility. Notice what thoughts you have.
Take a mental step back for a moment and observe your thoughts. What are the messages? How are you reacting to a thought? What happens when you think that thought? Our thoughts create our emotions and feelings. Looking at your thought patterns gives you awareness of your reactions and actions. Become an observer to your thoughts. Step out of the emotions and feelings and pick out your perceptions or beliefs and begin to see how they are creating your thoughts. Notice if they are positive or negative.
PRACTICE awareness, action and positive thoughts. Feeling happy and balanced just doesn’t happen magically. It actually takes practice. Here are some ways that may help: journaling, meditation, drawing, walking in nature, crying, laughing, scream or shout, take a mental time out, listen to music, eat healthy, seek out friends, make new friends, creative visualization, seek support, write gratitude’s. There are many more ways, there is no right or wrong, what works for you is perfect for you.
Riding the roller-coaster ride of caring for a loved one can be treacherous. With patience and practice you can gain awareness and skill at understanding yourself, your reactions and actions, discovering the power of choice, gain control and be better equipped to deal with the experiences.
Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld, 2010
Sharon RothLichtenfeld, 2010