Caring for someone you love, such as a family member or friend during their illness – is an opportunity for you to support someone in their time of great need and to do something really meaningful which can be quite satisfying. But, there is another side to being a care-giver, where you have to sacrifice your time, energy, personal responsibilities and even your own goals for a period of time.
In my life, I have experienced close family members going through long-term illnesses, observed their care-givers and even had opportunities myself to care for people recovering from procedures and periods of sickness. Through these difficult times, I have sought help from empowerment specialists to help me cope better.
This has been quite enlightening and has helped me see things from a wider perspective which made what I was going through, much easier to handle. I would like to share with you some thoughts to help you make it through those times while caring for an ill family member/friend with strength and without losing it or loosing yourself.
1. Allow Them To Be Ill
This may sound strange, but think about it for a minute. Their illness may be an important part of their journey in life, a lesson to be learned, or a cleansing for their body and mind.
By constantly wanting to change it, you leave no space for them to assimilate what they are going through themselves – almost like rushing the process for them as they may not go at the pace you are at. It is their body going through these changes and if you allow them to be ill, you’re also allowing them to get better.
2. This Is Not Your Battle To Fight
Wait, what do you mean? Well, while you may be a part of their recovery process and caring for them, that is your role, and it has a limit. If you start to make it your crusade, you may take away their space to take ownership for their own illness and do what they need to do to fight it themselves. They need to know that, their health is their responsibility; but you are there to support. Furthermore, if you take on their battle and if it gets serious, it becomes hard on you to deal with it and let go, slowing down or completely impacting your grieving process too.
3. Help Yourself So You Can Help Others
Ever wondered why on airplanes you are told to secure your own mask first before helping others? Quite simple. Because, if you aren’t safe and cared for with an air mask, you will pass out and be of no help to others around you who need you! While caring, don’t feel that it’s selfish to take some time out to do what you need to do, or even to just take a break. This will replenish your energy to do even more, so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
It’s also good so that you are not left feeling inadvertently resentful and angry if you constantly feel like you are sacrificing for the ill person. I found that, waking up a bit earlier to get through my own to-do-list was helpful to make me feel in control of my own tasks while I was caring for someone ill.
4. Take Some Time Apart
Sometimes when you are closely caring for someone and you spend a considerate time together, things can get a bit too close for comfort. It’s perfectly reasonable to take some time apart and do something alone. This can really bring renewed energy to your relationship and help you both during the recovery process.
It’s natural to feel a little guilty for this time apart, but if you look at the benefits and bigger picture, you will realize that it can be very valuable for the greater good.
This article isn’t about being unwilling to help others. It’s about keeping yourself in a position to do that; to help you and them get through and recover with strength. It applies to more intense caring, but could also apply to the informal instances where you are called on to support a loved one or a friend.