There are lots of inevitable caregiving firsts you don’t want, and if you want a good first you’ve got to make it happen.
Some firsts are hard. The first time your mother falls–and you know that it’s only a first of many. The first time your dad forgets your daughter’s name. The first time you wind up in ER and pull an all nighter only to realize there’s nothing anyone can do so you return home more exhausted and stressed than ever. The first time you finally realize your sibling isn’t going to be all that much help when it comes to caring for your parent. The first time you say the word “Alzheimer’s,” or “Cancer,” or “Hospice.”
Caregiving is filled with firsts you don’t want, and there’s only two ways to get a first you do want:
How do you make a good first? Be aware or make it happen.
Let’s back up. Honor a tough first.
You have to acknowledge the toll they take on your soul. It will extract a price. Some you knew were coming and you avoided, denied and delayed. Others hit you in the back of the knees like a cruel two-by-four slamming you to the ground. Don’t fight it. It does no good to rush past it or ignore it. Go to your car, your closet, hide in the laundry room–and sob. Wipe the tears as you drive.Scream into a pillow. Slam a cabinet door. Use your rage. Get it out. Call a friend and let the silence between comfort you more than words ever could.
After you honor a tough first, get on with life.
Don’t mull in your loss, your sorrow, your aching soul. I know I sound hard, but think of it like this: Think of Cher in Moonstruck. Remember when Nicholas Cage is moaning and griping and feeling sorry for himself that he lost his hand and can’t get a girl and being a good Italian that she is (feisty as hell and tell it like it is) she slaps him across the face (twice!) and yells, “Snap out of it” ? It’s the wake-up slap he needs. I love that scene. It’s a shock, but it’s a good shock.
Enjoy this clip of Cher’s double slap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x-fkSYDtUY
So give yourself a wake up slap.
Caregiving sucks (at times).
It’s packed with exhaustion and heartache, and if you let it, it will keep whacking you in the back your knees and blinding you with sorrow and grief. Unless you figure out when to reel with hurt and loss and when to look yourself in the mirror and get tough. Only you know when.
Then, make your own firsts
Did you know that our brains LOVE firsts? We remember our first kiss, first car, first divorce (smile),. Our neurons fire faster when they don’t know what’s coming next. We pay attention. We gobble up the details. We regale the stories for years to come. Firsts aren’t reserved for the young, but as routine and monotony fill our lives we have to fight for those firsts.
Create your own caregiving firsts:
- The first time you sing in the car together practically screaming the words to your favorite Broadway tune.
- The first time you sing your mother to sleep.
- The first time you call for respite and take yourself on a date–and you come home to find that your mom/dad/spouse actually survived and even enjoyed their time spent with someone other than you.
- The first time you stood up to a doctor or nurse.
- The first time you ditched a doctor’s appointment and went to Dairy Queen together instead.
- The first time you stood up for yourself–to your mom/dad/spouse–and you felt respect.
- The first time the two of your danced in the kitchen.
When is the last time you did something for the first time?