Tuesday 2 June 2015

Caregiving With Strength - A Guidebook for Grieving Caregivers

Eleanor Silverberg understands grief.  She is a child of holocaust survivors who often witnessed her mother silently weeping.  An unspoken sorrow infused the Silverberg family home.....grief seeped into their furniture, their walls and of course their hearts.

Eleanor Silverberg's book Caregiving With Strength: Raising Self Care to New Heights by Acknowledging the Losses is the result of the author's personal experience with loss combined with her professional experience as a social worker, primarily in the areas of chronic illness and dementia.  This is a book for family caregivers and clinicians alike - it illuminates clear signposts for grieving caregivers who seek support in moving from immobilizing sadness to strength and resilience.  "Stated simply", Silverberg says, "the act of caregiving in itself is problem solving and fulfilling a grief task."

The author has carefully laid out a framework for healing consisting of the '3-A Approach: Acknowledge, Assess and Assist'.  Although the language at times feels better suited to clinicians, there are plenty of compelling anecdotes that make plain the common sense and positive possibilities contained in her approach.

Silverberg is right on the money in her description of our collective reluctance to acknowledge the reality of loss in caring for loved ones with chronic illness or dementia.  Naming (or acknowledging) grief for what it is in caregiving is a big first step that the author identifies in the strengthening process.  Assessing grief is more complicated since everyone will experience loss differently.  But Caregiving With Strength will help anyone understand their own high emotions much better in order to move on to the 'assisting' stage.  Of course, clinicians will be focused on their role as helpers of caregivers, but Silverberg is careful to point out that anyone experiencing the sadness and loss inherent in caregiving can assist themselves as well.

The author maintains that "grief is the most powerful untapped resource for human transformation."  Those who have come out other side of traumatic life events with their optimism intact know this to be true, but achieving that transformation is nearly impossible without applying Silverberg's pragmatic system to the process.  Muddling through a storm of black emotions without self-awareness or direction will never result in transformation - that's just the truth.

This is an essential text for caregivers, especially clinicians and family caregivers who gravitate to systems for understanding the human pain of loss.  Above all, its message is a positive one.  As the author quotes in a sermon by the Reverend Charles T. Rush, "Grief and hope are related.  Grief need not be an unmentionable downer to be avoided at all costs.  It's a constitutive part of our lives.  When it is done well, it can be very healing, intimate, caring, authentic, growthful and loving.  It can remind us of what our living is all about in the first place."

Caregiving With Strength by Eleanor Silverberg can be ordered HERE.

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