Here's another link to an article published on the Personal Development Cafe site. Take a look at #7 to see my contribution: Check in with yourself. How Not To Lose Yourself in a Relationship.
Being a caregiver can be a difficult job, both physically and emotionally. Caring for a loved one in your home or nearby has many challenges. But what if your loved one is in another town, state, or country? Long-distance caregivers face different obstacles that complicate caregiving. Shiffy Crane, a well-respected Geriatric Care Manager in Orange County, CA, talked on this subject in February of this year. I was delighted to be part of the audience at the Senior Care Professionals breakfast sponsored in part by the Alzheimer's Association and Atria Golden Creek and to have the opportunity to hear her tips. Here are three ideas that I want pass along:
Much appreciation to Shiffy Crane for her tireless efforts in educating the Orange County community on elder care issues. For more information about Shiffy, visit her website at www.elder-care-manager.com.
The holidays are traditionally a time of family, feasting, and togetherness. But how do we get through this time when grieving the loss of a loved one? Take a look at my new guest blog post for O'Connor Mortuary: When the Holidays Mean Pain: Grieving During the Holiday Season.
What comes to mind when you think about parents and kids sitting down for a difficult conversation? Most people might envision parents having a heart-to-heart with their teen about the birds and the bees or substance abuse. But what if the kids are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, and the topics they want to discuss include whether or not mom should turn over the keys to the car for good or what happens if dad has a stroke and needs long term care?
Family dynamics and communication styles play a large role in how these talks will proceed. If lines of communication were never transparent in a family, it’s likely that approaching an aging parent will be more challenging. Moving, money, health, and driving are commonly the trickiest topics to discuss with older adults (D’Aprix, 2010). This is due to the fact that, often, the parent is concerned about losing autonomy and shifting into a more dependent role. For decades, they’ve been the ones in charge of their own finances, home, and lifestyle, and often see no reason to cede control to their children. Adult children, however, may be worried about their parents’ safety and wellbeing, yet be uncomfortable transitioning to a caregiving role.
While broaching the tough topics with aging parents may be challenging, there are some methods that can help. Talking to parents before a health setback or other crisis occurs is paramount. Choose a calm, quiet, appropriate time and place to start a dialogue, and gauge if both you and your parent is in a relaxed mindset to have a discussion. These talks don’t have to be drawn out; twenty minutes is fine. Be sure to continue to keep talking at regular intervals. To avoid a power struggle, make the goal of the talks clear: maximizing the independence of the aging parent (Edmonds, 2012). The safer, healthier, and more financially organized the parent is, the longer the parent will be able to maintain the maximum autonomy. You, as the adult child, are there to assist and support this goal as long as safely feasible.
D’Aprix, A. (2010, November 17). Challenges of communication between older adults [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=b1sLvrTlaUo
Edmonds, D.S. (2006-2012). Talk to elderly parents about the future. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from http://www.talk-early-talk-often.com/talk-to-elderly.html
It’s that time of year again. Graduation time. The greeting card section at your local drugstore is overflowing with ways to express congratulations to that soon-to-be graduate. But this year it’s different. This year, it’s your child that’s the one going out in the world, flying the coop, embarking on a new path.
It’s a hopeful time, a time of new beginnings. So, amidst this joy, why is there a nagging sense of sadness? Isn’t this the natural order of things? Shouldn’t we be happy to see our children grow and leave home to start their own lives?
If this ambivalence sounds familiar, don’t worry. It’s natural to feel conflicted. On one hand, you’re proud of having successfully shepherded this young adult to become the person they are. But their impending departure means that things are changing. Your role as a parent is shifting. What this signals is an adjustment in the way you see your relationship, not only with your child, but also with yourself. It’s not uncommon for parents to use the term “grieving” to describe how it feels when their child moves out.
Here are seven tips to help cope with the empty nest transition:
1. Ask yourself: “How much of my identity revolves around being a parent?” Follow that up with the question: “What are some parts of myself that are independent from my being a parent?” Writing down your answers in a journal can help you sift through difficult emotions and aid in self-exploration.
3. Be patient with yourself. Life transitions take time. Acknowledge and validate your feelings. Since the “launch” of a child into adulthood is the expected course, some friends may not empathize with your complex feelings. Seek out others who have been in this situation and understand what you’re going through.
4. Take stock of the context of this transition. Are there any other big changes in your life that are happening now? Menopause? Retirement? Aging parents that are requiring your attention? Additional losses can compound our already raw feelings and lead us to feel overwhelmed.
5. Set achievable goals and create a plan of action. What did you always promise yourself you’d do once the kids were out of the house? Dust off those dreams and take small steps towards achieving them.
6. Hold off on making any big decisions. Now may not be the time to spontaneously quit your job or sell the house on a whim. Wait until you are on a more even keel to decide on whether or not to make big shifts.
6. If you are married or have a partner, redefine your relationship with your significant other. Can you allow yourself to imagine that this might be the most fulfilling time yet? Share your feelings with your partner, and, together, create a vision of how you two can focus on enhancing your relationship.
7. If you feel overwhelmed and would benefit from some additional support, consider counseling. While this may be a time of jumbled emotion, there is hope that you’ll make it through this transition and even thrive.
Marnee Reiley is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (IMF 61489) who brings empathy, humor, and warmth to her collaborative work with couples and individual therapy clients in Orange County. Marnee is certified in Grief and Bereavement Counseling and is honored to support clients through times of adjustment to change and life transitions. Marnee can be reached at 949-222-6681 or YourOCTherapist@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @YourOCTherapist. For more information, please visit YourOCTherapist.com. Supervised at Journey Coaching and Counseling Services by Dr. Paul True, MFC 42710.
When a loved one dies, it can feel like life is turned upside down. A significant loss has a way of making us question our own place in the world and wonder how, and if, we’ll ever regain our equilibrium. Here are some ways to stay balanced during times of grief, when it seems the ground is shifting under your feet.
1. Reconnect with your passions.
When we’re feeling down, it can be hard to muster up the energy to do the things that we’ve always loved to do. Make the choice to reincorporate some of the activities that you know to be a tried-and-true source of pleasure. What about finishing that colorful scarf you’d been excited to start knitting? Perhaps it’s time to take advantage of spring’s arrival by planting some bright blooms in your garden. Maybe this weekend you can check out that local farmers’ market you’ve been meaning to explore. Set aside some time to dedicate to revel in what brings you joy, whatever that may be.
2. Rely on others.
It’s often the case that we want to isolate when grief becomes overwhelming. We don’t want to burden others with our pain, and so we shut ourselves off from our friends and family. Remember the old adage: “Joy shared is joy doubled; a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” By reaching out to others, we allow them the gift of giving to us by being a witness to our pain. We are comforted by the knowledge that as lonely as grief can feel, we are not alone; we have those in our lives who want to support us, not only in happy times but in tough times, as well.
3. Double-up on self-care.
Before the death of your loved one, you might have been pretty good about eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Have these healthy lifestyle habits started to slip a bit? Now’s the time, more than ever before, to consciously nurture yourself. Self-care doesn’t end with the physical, though. Your self-talk plays an important role. What are you saying to yourself? Are you mentally beating yourself up for having feelings of guilt, anger and overwhelm? Be mindful of any self-criticism that might sap your energy and rob you of self-esteem. Your feelings are valid, and emotions during times of grief can run the gamut. Treat yourself the way you’d like others to treat you: with kindness, patience, humor, and love.
4. Consider professional support.
Grief is not pathological. It is a normal, largely universal, process that most of us face at various points in our lives. Although the loss will remain, the acute pain will lessen with time. Although this is a natural process, some people benefit greatly by obtaining additional support through their grief. They might attend a grief support group, or seek out individual therapy for help on working through the feelings brought about by the loss.
_Knowing of my work in grief and loss, a friend sent me this beautiful poem. Poetry can be a balm at times of pain. Its sparing use of language and imagery can capture and give voice to our feelings succinctly and poignantly. In reading the art of others, we recognize that we are not alone. To me, this work hearkens back to Rumi's "The Guest House" (see blog post from 2/17/12) which reminds us to accept our grief without judgment for it, too, can be a teacher.
Khalil Gibran on Pain from "The Prophet"
Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder
at the daily miracles of your life, your pain
would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your
heart, even as you have always accepted
the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity
through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the
physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink
his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided
by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips,
has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter
has moistened with His own sacred tears.
_I love this poem by Rumi and wanted to share it with you. To me, it speaks to radical acceptance of what is. Rather than push away our feelings and try to deny them, welcome them. The more quickly we acknowledge them, difficult as they might be, the more quickly we can integrate and process them. They're there for a reason. Invite them in.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)
Marnee Reiley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with couples and adults in Irvine, Orange County, California.