Sometimes when I am down in the dumps I examine my hurt and pain and say:"no-one truly understands" which makes me shudder when I realise how many platitudes I have used on others during their time of grief. Honestly I had lost close friends and older relatives but I never realised how different it was to lose a spouse. In my role as a Chaplain or counsellor others had come to me looking for some comfort and I hope that is what they went away with. I doubt that my "expertise" was sufficient to even glimpse the depth what they were going through though.
I have been a telephone counsellor, a volunteer Chaplain and though my work in the church someone people turn to in times of trouble. I have done my best to help people see the way ahead more clearly and reassure them of their worth, and in some cases help them find a new purpose. I don't think any of that is special, all you need is an ability to relate to others, to put youself in the same position. What I do think is special is making yourself available to people in their times of trouble and for that I am thankful for this site and others like it that provide us with an opportunity to have others share in our journey. Even now in my grief I am glad for the Strokenet extended family that gives me such support..
I do understand that some of the comments I leave on the forums or blogs may be unhelpful, not because I don't want to help but simply because I am not in a position to do so. I lived for many years with a stroke survivor, my dear husband Ray, but that does not mean I am able to even imagine what it is like to day after day live in a body with limited capabilities. We all look for help when we are vulnerable and in need and in some hurtful cases yes,we fail people. People have told me I'll never know what they are going through etc and I know they are right. Of course I do not know what they are going through. But I do want to reach out and comfort them in some way, as much as I know how.
I can't say that having been a counsellor helps my own pain. I know all the theory but how do you apply that to your own hurt? Of course I still mourn the loss of my husband Ray in September and my Mum in November, it is hard to lose those you have loved deeply and for a lifetime, and I guess that the pain of that loss will remain for however long it takes me to work through it. I can't do anything else but go through the pain and hopefully I'll come out into the sunshine again.In the meantime it is one day at a time.
I have been reading a book by Henri Nouwen on Christian Leadership and he points out how helpless we are in the face of another's trouble. We try to get along side them, to give gentle advice and to show understanding but in the end all the one in trouble needs may be a hand on the shoulder or a reassuring presence. Words are never enough.Our greatest need is a sense of belonging, all other needs pale into insignificance beside that.To join a community like the one we find here can have a restorative effect as we once more regain a sense of belonging.
I guess that is why support groups are so vital and that unconditional love we feel when people really listen to us. That is why coming to a place like Strokenet for a lot of people is the beginning of healing and why I am still here. I still need that love and support that is offered by a support group like this. I may no longer be a caregiver but the strokes that affected Ray's and my life still have a hold over me. The way Ray died was a result of the strokes and so that shadow is still here, I may be an ex-caregiver but I will never forget those years and the effect they have had on my life.
Next Monday I go to the second grief counselling session. I moslty cried through the first session, I hope not to do that next time. I want to remain in my head and ask some of the questions that are on my mind, like what steps I need to take to find myself moving forward. I realise that that is probably the wrong question and comes out of my feelingds that I do not like being out of control and that is why I feel so uncomfortable now. We all feel out of control after a crisis or a trauma and losing your husband or wife in most circumstances is a trauma. So maybe I just have to accept being out of control for a while is my "new normal" and not ask too many questions because I am not going to like it if there are no answers.
All of us live with that sense of hopelessness and powerlessness in the way that stroke intrudes on our comfortable lives. We have made plans and they have now come to nothing but life deals us many a blow and somehow we learn to live with the consequences. We all do a bit of tamtrum throwing when that happens. Of course we all say: "why me?" as I sometimes do now. In my selfish way I want this painful time to be over and for me to get to the "happy ever after" stage of my life. But given my past record that is not going to happen. I am not sure there is a "happy ever after" in my future.
Instead, as usual, I will have to commit to acceptance, of where I am, where I am going and where I will finish up. And enjoy the journey and the view along the way.I will get through it as bravely as I can, remembering to smile and "fake it till you make it".