Saturday 25 May 2019

Holding Hands in the Dark

When my sister and I were young, we used to play constantly with the children of our next-door neighbours at the cottage. Once every summer, we'd be allowed to sleep outside together in a tent by the lake. The night I remember most vividly was when I was ten and my sister was twelve. 

We told ghost stories and shrieked with fear and laughter. We had flashlights, but we only used them to shine upwards from under our chins, imitating monsters. Eventually, our voices faded and flashlights were turned off. The darkness was almost liquid, pitch black. Still frightened by our stories, we held hands. Together, connected, we felt safe. 

Today when I read story after story of family caregivers on social media group support sites, I am reminded of that night in our tent. The darkness of caring can take the form of anything from a new diagnosis to the imminent death of a loved one. It is experiencing great challenges for the first time and not knowing what might happen next. It is reaching out a hand in the pitch black of not knowing and finding a friend. Someone who shines a light on to the path ahead and says, "I know this path and I will walk with you. I've been here before. Take my hand." 

Family caregivers are generous and kind hearted. We don't want anyone to suffer if they don't have to and if there's something we know that can help another, we'll share our experience.  And we know that when the dark descends, we just have to ask for the hand of a friend.


Anonymous said...

Your story brings back memories of my own childhood. I care for my son who became a quadriplegic 4 1/2 yrs ago. You have NO IDEA the number of times I wish I had a caring hand, even to this day. And I see a big need coming down the pike, with LOTS more people becoming family caregivers.

The Caregivers' Living Room said...

Thank you so much for your comment. I see such a huge number of people needing to step up for their families in the future, too. We have an aging population and we have huge numbers of baby boomers (myself included). People are living longer, at home, sicker and more complex. It's not all bad IF we have the support - we can take care of the people we love and ourselves. I was driving to the cottage the other and listening to the radio. It was an interview and the person was actually talking about surviving mental illness. She said, "Support is like holding hands in the dark." And that's what got me thinking. I'm glad this resonated for you, too. Holding hands with you right now - my son is 30 and has been quadriplegic all his life. He has a great life (with support).

Stacy said...

Hi, Donna, I started to cry when I read your blog as I read it I was reflecting on the many times my client has reached his hand out for mine. I know that when my client holds his hand out for mine he needs to feel safe, secure, and reassured in knowing that someone is there, that I'm there. I'm an in-home caregiver for 6 years now, my passion and calling is working with people with dementia. My client has Alzheimer's when I first started working with him I knew I had to build a trusting relationship with him before I could introduce touch. Touch is needed, it's meaningful, and I feel it's crucial in peoples lives rather were well or living with some sickness, for caregivers and the ones we care for! There's a song called Never Walk Alone although I had never heard of it I came across it on YouTube as I was searching for music one day for my client to listen too, that song has now become our theme song I tell him all the time he will never walk alone through this disease that I will be with him till the end, my hand clasped in his hand!

The Caregivers' Living Room said...

Oh, Stacy, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful connection with your client. I can tell that there is true, deep, authentic caring in your relationship. You have nurtured this with respect, in his own time. No one knows what the next hours, days or weeks will bring at the end of life. But touch is so reassuring - it is so fundamental to sharing our humanity. It's amazing that you landed on the song, You'll Never Walk Alone. Our son Nicholas has very severe disabilities and he is medically complex. A couple of months ago, he was gravely ill in ICU at the hospital. Nick is a Liverpool Football club supporter (we used to live in England and Nick got hooked over there) - You'll Never Walk Alone is their theme song! We sing it all the time in our family. It is the perfect song with the perfect words for the idea that I meant to convey in my blog post. How extraordinary. Thank you!!!!!!