Coping with a serious illness
If you or a loved one are looking for help in dealing with a life threatening illness, chronic illness or grief and bereavement, or mental health issues, I am here to help.
Living a situation of serious illness is very stressful for different reasons. There are concerns about medical issues, financial aspects related to this in addition to social, professional, family worries and also emotional and spiritual apprehensions. We are complex beings and illness inevitably triggers a process of suffering.
Our emotional life gets a little messy. It can be too stressful to deal with exams, diagnoses, medical teams, hospitals and also to deal with life management as it was before the illness; professional, family and personal organization. A whole new vocabulary of words in “hospital language" becomes familiar and often a patient may feel more anxious and distressed, even when she/he is confident about the treatment.
Being sick generates a different life experience and new reflections, different expectations, and mixed feelings are common. Both the patient and the family often feel lost and helpless. Often communication between family members is compromised because one does not want to disturb or worry the other. This dynamic can contribute to feelings of isolation.
Being ill brings many discomforts, both physical and psychological. Little by little the reality of the disease and the treatment is imposed and the body tries to cope, adapt and transform. The expectation of strengthening and healing is the biggest focus. However, there is an emotional reality that also participates in this experience.
Attention to the best way to deal with this situation can contribute to living it in a more integrated way, with better access to internal coping resources that contribute to the strengthening process as a whole. A mindset that helps facing the challenges in a more conscious and balanced manner.
Experiencing a disease situation in a phase where the treatment can no longer achieve the expected results brings new stress to the patient and the family. This process can be experienced with intense feelings of fear, despair and anger, in addition to confusion and silence, for not knowing how to approach and cope with the situation.
Demystifying palliative care…
Palliative care offers a wider attention to the patient and the family. Many think of it as an assistance limited to a person who is dying. However, palliative care offers support for a patient dialing with a serious illness in its ups and downs, having “never abandon” as a premisse. Palliative care is not euthanasia and does not speed up the dying process. Palliative care provides support in the suffering process in its totality, understanding the human being not only as a body, but as a person, with a biography, wishes and expectations. PC respects the patient’s life and dignity whilst aiding the family.
Being able to sustain hope and stay connected with oneself and the reality of the worsening of the disease is a complex dynamic that can contribute to get through times of great tension.
When a loved one is sick, the whole family suffers together, although they try to minimize their need for support as the focus is totally on the patient’s needs. However, stress, physical exhaustion, the demands of daily care that many times invade the nights and the emotional suffering of witnessing a loved one in extreme frailty contributes to intense feelings of confusion, fear, sadness, guilt and loneliness. Families may feel helpless.
Each family has its own history and its own ways of managing challenging life situations. What works for a group of people does not work for another. To validate the singularity of each family as well as their needs is as important as helping the family to find ways to care for themselves throughout difficult times, which can indirectly also help the patient.
Living a situation of loss of a loved one is a painful process. Often the awareness of a life threatening illness triggers anticipatory grief; intense feelings that can overlap related to separation anxiety, isolation, anger, guilt, sadness and exhaustion, for example. There might be a fluctuation between hope and hopelessness. To be able to process these feelings can contribute to better coping with the situation.
Grief is always a time that we wants to avoid or
that we wants to speed up to end soon; a time
that we want to exclude from our life. There is a
reckoning that the mourner should take a few days
to suffer and then resume life and go on.
There are farewell rituals that encourage contact
and support right after the death of a loved one.
And this is an important part of the grieving
process. But then, as the days go by, the absence
of the loved one who died remains present and
the mourner goes through a period of suffering that is lived in solitude most of the time. Mourning is a natural response to the loss of a bond. The one who dies takes a little of the history of those who stay. And in this process the experience of suffering can be intense, conflicted, with feelings of guilt, anger, relief and a deep sense of meaninglessness, for instance. In these cases, being able to count on specialized support can make a good difference.
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.”