Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally there was no path. Yet, as people walk all the time in the same spot, a way appears.
– Lu Xun, Chinese Poet
Many family members share that they experience complicated feelings as they relate to and care for a person with a chronic and terminal illness. They feel sad, discouraged, and alone. They feel angry, guilty, or hopeful. They feel tired or depressed. In fact, in the face of the reality of a chronic illness, emotional distress is appropriate and understandable. When the feelings become overwhelming or affect sleep, behavior, or mood then counseling with someone who understands these unique and painful challenges can be very helpful.
Common Emotional Reactions of Family Members
- Watching a loved one deteriorate over time is distressing for everyone.
- People have different ways of handling their emotions. Some people experience each feeling intensely and others do not.
- Sometimes people believe that certain feelings are unacceptable – that they should not have certain feelings or that, if they do, no one will understand them.
- Sometimes they feel alone with their feelings.
- Sometimes people have mixed feelings. One might both love and dislike the same person, or want to keep the family member at home and put him in a nursing home or facility, all at the same time. Having mixed feelings might not seem logical but it is common. Other people do not realize they have mixed feelings.
- Sometimes people are afraid of strong emotions, perhaps because such feelings are uncomfortable or they are worried they might do something rash. At the same time there can be fear of how others might view them or that they will burden the listener with the intensity of their feelings.
- Sometimes stress shows up in physical symptoms and can be treated both with counseling as well as medical care.
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There is no “right” way to handle emotions. Recognizing how you feel and having some understanding of why you feel the way you do are both important, because they can affect your judgment. Unrecognized or unacknowledged feelings can influence the decisions a person makes in ways that he does not understand or recognize. Having been on this emotional journey myself for several years it is my strong wish to support others who are experiencing this disease process with their loved one.
Please contact me with any questions you may have.