Caregivers who can accept the course of a loved one’s breast cancer diagnosis learn to contend with its many challenges and then savor the time they still have left with one another are better able to cope with whatever unfolds. How can all caregivers achieve that level of flexibility and adaptation? Here are some ideas.
Positive thinking can be negative: Many caregivers are saddled with the belief that staying continuously positive gives them the best chance of warding off the effects of a care receiver’s illness. They refuse to entertain more negative thoughts (or engage in what’s disparagingly called “stinkin’ thinkin'”) as if they could be potentially harmful. But positivity not based on reality is self-delusion. It prevents caregivers and care receivers from taking necessary steps to face the challenges of caregiving squarely. It maintains short-term happiness at long-term peril.
Negative feelings can be positive: Similarly, some caregivers believe that expressing negative emotions, such as sadness and worry, can increase the stress and guilt felt by care receivers and hurt them, too. But when caregivers are unremittingly upbeat, then their loved ones often feel prohibited from expressing any twinge of sadness or anxiety. That doesn’t make them cheerier; it makes them feel more alone with their conditions and emotions. It is better for caregivers to share their negative feelings with care receivers and consequently draw closer in commiseration.
Accepting isn’t despairing: Despair is defined as the complete absence of hope. But that’s not the usual end result of acceptance. When a caregiver can reflect upon all the ramifications of a loved one’s condition, he is taking command of caregiving to the best of his abilities. He makes decisions based on an awareness of the facts. He meets day-to-day problems by generating solutions that are realistic. That doesn’t lessen hope for living a life of the highest possible quality; it increases it.
Accepting can be cherishing: Living with acceptance that a loved one is declining doesn’t sap enjoyment from time spent together, it intensifies it. There is something about having an awareness of the care receiver’s vulnerability that concentrates the caregiver’s mind and makes time itself more precious. We do our best with eyes fully open. We take in our loved one for as long as we can. Afterward, we cherish them and all we did to try to help them.
If you need help dealing with being a caregiver and all of the emotions that involves, please reach out to Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. She can match you with Peer Mentor who has been a caregiver, too, and understands, connect you with a support group, or provide you with free mental health counseling. As a co-survivor, you deserve support, too.