Last fall, I started a caregiver’s support group. The goal was to offer a non-judgmental setting for adult children to share their stories. While being the facilitator, my real job was arranging chairs and making sure everyone had a turn to speak. This was the first insight.
Given the opportunity, caregivers have a lot to say.
The drama of aging parents is consumptive and complex. Caregivers are exhausted by endless tasks and wind up isolated. They rarely talk with a group of people who not only want to hear their stories but have deep empathy for their issues. When they do, they are taken back by what they hear and what they say. This was the second insight.
Caregivers assume their family situation is not the norm.
The drama of aging parents is embedded with truths that we all share. Things end and change as our parents become older versions of themselves and we strangely lose our youth. Things fall apart as reality refuses to cooperate with our attempts to keep everyone happy. The game is not fair as siblings find a list of reasons to not lend a hand. Our best laid plans many times are met with indifference, anger and rejection. This was the third insight.
Caregivers forget the redemptive power of the telling.
Shakespeare’s familiar quote that “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.”
So we sit and listen to the telling. We don’t try to fix; we don’t edit the raw truth. We know our listening and caring is enough. Surprisingly, we find a collective courage from our willingness to do the right thing in a messy world that we neither control nor fully understand. But we understand the sitting and the telling and amid the crazy days that march us forward, we feel blessed to have found an emotional respite when we least expected it.