It’s not straightforward. It’s never straightforward. And nothing can really help you forget the situation. But there are a few little tricks that might somehow soothe you or cause you to find some excess strength and there are some other things that you should try and avoid in order to not feel even worse.
Let me attempt to summarize a few tips for you. Remember, this is not about your ill loved ones today, but about you…
Think two or three positive thoughts or remember two happy or even better, funny memories and keep them ready to tell your loved one if the moment arises. You need to think of these when you are alone because life tends to get busy or overwhelming when near a sick person. Catch the opportunities to give them little gifts of happiness throughout the day. Have some stories, anecdotes or memories prepared at all times. Be ready to induce a change of subject from the conversation when you feel that you and the patient are moving in circles around the same old themes. That will work as a flush of fresh, invigorating breeze.
Whenever you’re with your loved sick ones, focus all of your attention on them and try not to consider your pain. It can never match theirs. And don’t let mental digressions divert you from your real chore which is keeping yourself strong enough to help the person you love. It’s in fact an unavoidable question. However, it’s a question that has no answer and looking for one obsessively won’t solve the issue and will subtract from the energy reserves. When that question (or similar ones) pop into your mind, look at it squarely for a couple of seconds and then let your ideas let it leave you alone. Turn your attention to more fruitful endeavors. Don’t sit around letting questions attack you. Don’t stay in bed if you’re awake doing nothing; grab a book or get up to bake some cookies. Anything is better than letting destructive or depressive thoughts and tortuous questions engulf you. Among my favorites is writing something for my loved ones when my mind does not appear to get any peace. The mere act of sitting in the computer or holding the pencil in my hand helps me concentrate and fight negative thoughts. Reading soothes my thoughts so much! It helps me run away from my reality for a little while and has been shown to be a great way to reduce stress. But whatever you read should be of interest to you. Don’t try to take any book laying around in your house. Choose something which has meaning and you really need to know about.
Meet up with friends who can support you too. Find minutes to vent your anger and despair away from your ill loved one but supported by friends or others who care for you. Let’s share your pain and comfort you, too. Do not play hero all day long; it’s exhausting and you will need to save up your energy.
If not with friends, try to vent your anger and distress by running, exercising, walking or practicing any sport you like or participating in any manual action of your choice. Doing something physical helps the mind focus. It’s OK to feel angry and frustrated, it’s only natural. And crying is also excellent. But no matter what you do, do not let the anger and frustration accumulate inside you. Those two are very destructive forces which is only going to lead to more sadness. Feel them, face them and understand that what you are feeling is a natural response.
Plan little actions for every day. Some of them you will tackle, others will remain just planned. Have things to do at all times: rent a movie, order a publication, organize a small reunion with friends over drinks, decide what to cook for dinner… even if your times look completely full and overfilled, nevertheless plan ahead. Some of those plans you can design together with your loved one: talk about the details, discuss the options… as you would do under any other circumstances.
There will be times when your mind and your spirit will ask for peace and quiet, for silence and inactivity. Take a break. Give yourself some minutes alone and don’t feel guilty for taking them. Let your ideas and raw feelings rest a bit. But be sure those times don’t turn into self-punishment. If you believe your mind is starting to go in circles around unanswerable questions again, put a stop to it. One thing is enjoying a quiet moment; something else is letting depression catch up with you.
And lastly, let your loved one know that you are there, that you’re the exact old you and that you are together in this. Sometimes, when the pain is large, we draw from our loved ones because it is too much to bear. Sail the ride together. It is OK to show them that you are sad or even mad, as long as you could also show them that you’re hopeful and which you cherish these moments together. A happy moment treasured now is worth more than many, less purposeful others shared before.
Life may be unbearably hard, you’re right. And we should never pretend it’s not. However, it’s our job to search for the little, good things around us to help people who are sick. Use these little pointers that will help you go through your dark days.
Love life, yes, even under these terrible circumstances, enjoy the good moments in life,