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Strange question


Melinda

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Dear all,

This is a strange question.

I am a caretaker. I am also a caretaker of a caretaker (Geoff).

Is it posible to grieve not only for the patient--but for a caretaker (Geoff)--as you watch them go through this horrible process?

Is there anything one can do to help someone through this process? Greiving, myself, I am afraid may only compound his grief--and that is the last thing I want to do.

I feel--AM--so helpless.

I hate this disease.

Melinda

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Yes. The levels of grief and its impact throughout are throughout our lives. I know I have become a lot closer to my classmates through the grieving process. And one of the reasons is that they are not grieving in the same way that our friends and families are. My classmates hurt for me, of course, but because I was coming in from out of town, they never met Becky. So they have been a source of support from an avenue not actually grieving themselves. I think the same thing is true of Alisa to an extent.

That is not to say that I don't lean on my family and friends as well. I am a big dude, so people can use the help.

How could you watch your fiancee suffer and not suffer yourself? That tells me only that your relationship is solid. And so yes, he will suffer all the more because you hurt. It goes back and forth. But so does the joy. And so does the contentment. And the anger. We pass all of our emotions back and forth with our loved ones, especially our spouses. (Consider y'allselves promoted) And so now you are focused on the hurt, and that is okay because it is part of this life and where you are right now. But you won't live here any more than you will live in spectacular moments. You are passing through hurt.

So embrace the hurt and the vulnerability. Trust that it is temporary. But share it so that you can share joy. The most important relationship you or Geoff will ever have is with each other, and so be open to all of its expressions.

I address a lot of my journal to Becky, and after she died, I told her that I was so grateful that she knew everything about me and loved me anyway. And if there was anything about me she didn't know, I was sorry I didn't share that, too. I wasn't sorry for all the stupid fights that were almost always my fault. I am a jackass and she knew that from the beginning. But if there is anything I didn't share, any piece of my soul she didn't know, that is something almost too devastating to contemplate.

But I must head home or else I will miss everwood. And so I will quit here. I hope that helps.

Curtis

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Melinda,

This has turned into a ramble... my apologies. :)

I believe it's perfectly normal to grieve not only for the person living with cancer, but also for their loved ones. It's difficult to see people struggling to cope and we often feel helpless to alleviate the suffering of their hearts and minds.

There's no one way to help people grieve. Some people will want to talk through the pain and others will prefer to be left alone to work through their feelings. The key is to know which approach they prefer and to try to respect it the best we can.

Take me, for example. I'm a talker. I appreciate someone who is able to listen to me, hear my fears and lend me some much needed strength. My brother is another story. He'll talk about my Mom having cancer when he can handle it - which is not often. It's made it difficult for me to be as open as I want to be with him because I know he can't always take what I need to say. Consequently, I've found other outlets - my Dad, friends and some great co-workers living similar experiences have been of great assistance.

If you need to grieve - then you must listen to your heart and express your grief. My Mom once expressed concern for me because she thought I wasn't expressing myself to her - she thought I might need to see a psychologist to talk. When I explained that I didn't want to add to her burden, she wanted me to know that she needed me to express my feelings around her. She felt empowered to a certain degree that she could assist me and help me through the process. She wanted to assert her role as parent - one which I had temporarily assumed and she felt good enough to take back.

I was particularly struck by the statement that you feel helpless. It's one that I've uttered and felt many times through this journey with my Mom.

It's my experience that feeling helpless is really about control. We labour under the assumption that we can control what happens to us and a disease like cancer is a terrible reminder that we can't always do that. We're not doctors who, thanks to training and technology, can pursue cures for diseases (but we can advocate and fundraise to provide some of the means). We're not sages who are able to predict what will happen in the future (I leave that to a greater Power). We are loved ones... who love above all else and provide our dear ones with hope, comfort and laughter (did I mention comfort food???). I have gotten to the point where I accept this as my role in this process.

The above are just thoughts that I wanted to share with you for your consideration. Your a loving human being who obviously cares very much for Geoff and his family. They are blessed to have you in their lives.

I also want to share the Serenity Prayer with you in the hope that it brings you some comfort:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Amen.

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Melinda,

What the others have said to you is perfect. I would only add that this is a common feeling. It happens to all of us.

I took my dad's death really hard compared to other death's we have had in our family. It came from my being his caregiver for 5+ years and it was just really, really hard. I could not hide my emotion from my husband, son, brother and sisters. It just poured out of me like a gushing waterfall and it was strong, intense and deep. I could tell that my family was grieving for me, but I just couldn't keep it from them because it was so overpowering. Oh, they were grieving, too, but I know their hearts and minds were all centered on me because I took it so hard. Like you said, they grieved for the grieving.

My family has always been very close, but during that time we became even closer. We were like this giant, strong wall of strength that couldn't be shattered, and when one of us was weak (me), the others became strong. This was particulary tough for them because I'm pretty much considered the anchor in the family. When they saw their anchor go down, their pain increased even more.

I guess I'm rambling here and don't know exactly how to word all this. The only way I can think of to sum it up is to this: Geoff will be blessed by your grieving for his pain and suffering. I know I was by my family's reaction to my grieving.

Lots of love to you, Melinda. Geoff is a lucky guy.

Love,

Peggy

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I know that Rick grieved for me.

He loved my dad too...but he was helpless to help him and helpless to help me, I'm sure he felt.

He "helped" by writing this website, He "helped" by taking care of our son while I was my dad's caregiver for a whole year. Later, he helped by arranging my dads funeral, wake, and military ceremony. He did all this to "help" us.

Yet he never complained, and he never openly "grieved" to me. I think he felt like if he "grieved" he was taking away from our pain (?) or that he didn't have a right to grieve like we did? (I know that sounds weird)

It's been over a year and Rick just now told me about the last conversation he had with my dad. He told me what it was like getting dad ready at the funeral home and how hard all of that was on him. He has only now talked about his pain and the things that haunt him.

At the time, last year, everything was just "taken care of" by him, and that eased my pain. I had no idea how much he hurt. But at the time, from diagnosis to my dad's death--I put everything into fighting and supporting my dad, I didn't have anything left inside of me to support Rick's pain.

I know what it is like seeing and watching my mom's pain. I know what it is like grieving for my mom's loss...but I have no idea what Rick went thru, or how you feel in your situation. Just know that it is normal. Just ask Geoff what he needs from you and let him know how you are feeling.

He'll tell you what he expects or needs. You are a big help to him and by being here, its so obvious how much you care about he and his mom.

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