Family is on my mind. We’ve been working together to clear out my mom’s former home so we can rent it to help pay her medical costs. For two weeks, my sister and I spent many hours sorting and cleaning. A cousin graciously persuaded her husband and son to move some heavy furniture. When you’re doing something so sad and hard, support from others seems like manna.
My sister and I didn’t always have this kind of calm, rational relationship. At the beginning of my mom’s illness, we disagreed about many things. During the first few years, we battled our way through a few angry scenes. Over time, it became clear that the stress surrounding Mom’s dementia clouded our efforts to talk to each other. Certain kinds of decisions — about medical options, about living situations — throw you back to a childhood pattern. Instead of working things out, your emotional gears shift suddenly and without your permission.
It becomes clear after a while, that if you allow yourself to have conversations about highly charged matters while you are wound up, the discussions are more likely to escalate into arguments. This is especially true if you are the primary caregiver and you haven’t had a break before discussing a sensitive issue. Take a breather before you take on a conflict!
Thoughts about family also came up during one of the sessions I did for the 21 Day Meditation challenge. One notion of the meditation was that “ideally family members are committed to each other.” But we all know that many caregivers have been pushed into taxing, solitary labor when their siblings or children fail to provide help. A helpful note in the Chopra meditation was that “if we are not born into a nurturing family we can create one from our circle of friends.” Reaching out to get support from faith communities, friends, or neighbors may be the best way to grow your “family” resources if biological kin won’t help.
The family meditation also recommended treating those in your family — whether its a group linked by DNA or shared concern — as “precious, valued, essential parts of life.” For that reason, I want to express my deep gratitude for the kindness and generosity of cousins, neighbors, friends, and compassionate strangers who have helped my mother and our family during mom’s battle with dementia. My sister, of course, deserves a million thanks for working with me to forge a relationship governed by respect and shared concern for our mom. ♥♥♥!