Caregiver Lessons: Acknowledge and Accept the Struggle (3 of 6)

Unexpectedly, the cancer journey can surface the ugly sides of both patient and caregiver. Acknowledging each other’s vulnerabilities and accepting the pain is the first step towards catharsis. Find out how.

Every cloud has a silver lining
Every cloud has a silver lining

One unexpected aspect of the cancer journey is when you come up against your own, not-so-heroic side, and that of the loved one you are taking care of. On the other hand, human nature being equally good, true and beautiful, the cancer journey also can bring out the very best in us.

Vijay and I have gone from one extreme to the other often over the last 8-9 years.

The bad news: You probably haven’t experienced so much pain before

The cancer patient is dealing with intense emotional and mental turmoil, well beyond what the average person would deal with, in an entire lifetime. While we are preoccupied with doctor’s appointments, surgery and post surgical rehab, chemo and radio cycles, the ‘human’ inside the body is equally assailed by psychological challenges.

Addressing difficult questions around financial security and the loss of their own dreams, in addition to the real possibility of their death can make them self-absorbed, withdrawn and emotionally unavailable to you. Worse, they can lash out at you, as perhaps their only safe space in which to vent their pain and anguish. It will take all your love, courage, forbearance and compassion to live through this phase.

The good news: Ask and you shall receive

To keep my sanity and find ways to cope, given that my own anchor (Vijay) was no longer there for me, I reached out for answers and strategies. It is said “the universe is a benign place, so seek and you shall find”, and when I did, I found myself swept away in a cloud-burst of Grace.

  • I found myself at workshops where I learned energy healing, unconditional love and forgiveness techniques.
  • I found a yoga teacher with whose personal help and attention, I connected with my very soul, while bringing my body to a state of perfect fitness and strength.
  • I found the spiritual teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and a path to Grace, which has stayed with me ever since, and only deepens by the day.

Friends: the other kind of life-support

Through these workshops, I met and made lifelong friends, each a gem, a spiritual seeker and an exceptional human being from whom I learned things that nurtured me and developed me. It’s as if the path of pain led to discovering real friends even as the superficial acquaintances fell away and no longer occupied my life.

Through these friends came books, in an uncanny sequence that seemed to lead perfectly from one necessary life-supporting lesson to the next.

Looking back, that very painful time where my loved one wasn’t available to me was also the time when I found some of the richest materials, learning and friends. The clichéd saying definitely holds true – no pain, no gain.

Acknowledging your own needs and humanness goes a long way to find your inner strength and there is nothing wrong in reaching out for help and support. If you are a carer, ask yourself: “What resources do I need to take me through this difficult time” and just send out a sincere call to the Divine.

“Every prayer is answered, every call is met” – The Mother, Sri Aurobindo

Reflection

  • When did you last hit your ‘enough … no more!’ point while dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of being a caregiver?
  • Where did you seek help and support … and if you haven’t, what is coming in the way?
  • What are your sources of  inner strength and resilience … how can you reconnect with them?

More from this series

Title About the article
Lesson 1: Wear Your Oxygen Mask First The cancer diagnosis blows a big, unexpected hole in your energy supply. It’s like being on an aircraft which was flying smoothly, all under control, and suddenly the cabin pressure drops due to some unexpected turbulence.
Lesson 2: Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat Cooking for a cancer patient can be far more challenging than many books indicate. Sometimes it can take over your life and make you wonder if this is all you are now going to do.
Lesson 3: Acknowledge and Accept the Struggle Another unexpected aspect of the cancer journey is when you come up against your own, not-so-heroic side, and that of the loved one you are taking care of.
Lesson 4: From Pain to Transformation Pain can serve you, if you can only stop long enough and pay attention to the incredible learning and growth that you are experiencing.
Lesson 5: Co-dependence – Don’t Slide Into It Most times the loved one who gets cancer and for whom you are the primary care-giver is already in a deep relationship with you.
Lesson 6: Relationship as a Path to Wholeness Looking back, the very struggle of having to reclaim my power from Vijay after having spent over five years of not just being his wife and the mother of his children but also his primary care-giver and chief source of emotional support, did deliver something extra-ordinarily beautiful for me.

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