How to Deal with Your Emotions While Caring for a Loved One
- Cancer & Caregiving
- Aug. 7, 2013
Taking on the role of primary caregiver to someone who can no longer care for themselves is a huge undertaking, and there are few who are prepared for the impact that this can have on their physical and emotional well-being.
If the person being cared for has an incurable disease like mesothelioma, there is the added stress of knowing that they are not going to get better, and this intensifies the emotions.
Emotions and Other Issues
Emotions are anything that we feel, including: love, hate, anger, joy, fear and grief. Sometimes, especially in situations over which we have no control, several of our emotions can come at the same time, and this can result in us feeling overwhelmed.
Here are some of the emotions and issues you may experience as you care for your loved one with mesothelioma, and some helpful hints that may help you to cope with them:
When a loved one is given a terminal diagnosis, acceptance does not come easy and it is not unnatural to feel that the diagnosis cannot be true.
Contrary to popular belief, denial can be a good thing when it comes to cancer diagnosis, as this is one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms and a natural way for people to take their mind away from a painful reality.
The denial mechanism is particularly helpful when a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and a “time-out” is needed to accept and understand it.
In most instances, denial is only temporary, and in time, people find their own way of coping with a cancer diagnosis.
- Allow yourself time to adjust to the situation in your own way.
- Focus on the things that you can do rather than those that you can’t.
- You may find it helpful to find out more about mesothelioma on the Internet so that you have an idea of what is going to happen in the future. While this can be upsetting, it does relieve the fear of the unknown.
When your life has been turned upside down and someone you love is suffering, it can cause you to feel angry, and this is perfectly understandable.
It is important to understand, however, that anger is a negative emotion and that the person it hurts the most is you.
No matter how angry you may feel about something that has happened, you cannot go back in time to change it. You can, however, change your reaction to it by acknowledging your hurt and then letting it go.
Letting go of anger also prevents you from taking it out on the ones you love the most. Ultimately, when anger is no longer pulling you down, you will feel a wonderful sense of relief.
Caring for a loved one with mesothelioma, especially as the disease progresses, is a full-time job that requires a lot of time and energy. You may find that you are no longer participating in any activities away from the house, or spending time in the company of friends.
If it is no longer possible for you to be away from your home, try to arrange a time, at least once or twice a week, for a friend to come and visit. On these occasions, try to do something that brings you pleasure. Here are a few things you might try:
- Play a game of Scrabble or cards.
- Do a jigsaw puzzle together.
- Make some popcorn, and sit down to watch a funny movie. There is nothing as healing as a good laugh.
- Have a good old chat about current affairs or what is going on in the local neighborhood. This is an excellent way to take your mind off of cancer for a while.
- Have a baking day.
It is impossible not to be deeply affected when you are caring for a loved one with an incurable illness like mesothelioma. This can cause anger, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, poor concentration and low energy.
A way of coping with your emotions is to give voice to them by acknowledging them and bringing some peace to your mind. This can be achieved by talking to a friend about your feelings or keeping a journal and making a note about how you feel each day.
If, however, your feelings are overwhelming you to the point where they are interfering with your ability to cope, it may be advisable to seek professional help.
Not knowing what to expect as your loved one’s disease progresses can cause you to feel very apprehensive and fearful of what each day will bring. This can be alleviated in several ways.
- Talk to the doctor who cares for your loved one and asking them to clarify things for you.
- Find information about the different stages of mesothelioma so you can be prepared for what happens next. If you find that there are things that you don’t understand, write them down and ask the doctor about them on your next visit.
- Find a support group specific to mesothelioma. Talking to someone who understands what you are going through can bring huge relief.
When a loved one becomes chronically ill and can no longer carry out their roles within a relationship, the person who cares for them often takes over all responsibility for running the household. This, added to the new responsibility of providing constant care to their loved one, can result in exhaustion.
- It is important to remember that you don’t have to do this on your own. If possible, ask a member of your family to share the load. This will alleviate your emotional stress and also help you to care for your physical health.
- Try to take small breaks during the day, even if it is to sit outside in the garden. Taking in the sounds, the smells and the business of insects and birds around you can be very relaxing.
Good sleep is a necessity to good health, but this can seem almost impossible when you are caring for someone who is chronically ill. If medication needs to be administered during the night or if your loved one requires help to go to the toilet, sleep can be broken, and this may result in you feeling tired and aggravated the next day.
- Try to have a nap during the day when your loved one is sleeping. If they do not sleep during the day, explain to them that you need some sleep and ask that they allow a time for you to do this each day. Ask that you not be disturbed unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Laying down with a good book often helps you to drift off to sleep. If you are concerned about napping for too long, set the alarm to allow for at least a couple of hours if possible.
No matter how well you are coping with the emotional strain of caring for a loved one with mesothelioma, there will naturally be times when you feel really fragile. At these times, the slightest thing may bring you to tears.
- It is important to understand that you don’t have to be strong all of the time.
- Let the tears flow. It is your body’s way of acknowledging the pain and sorrow you are experiencing, and your tears will bring a measure of relief.
When you are responsible for the health of another, there is so much to do and so many things to think of that the mind can become overwhelmed. As a result, it becomes hard to concentrate on anything for any length of time.
Writing a list of the things that have to be attended to is an excellent way to free the mind of constantly going over and over the things that need to be done.
Listing each chore in the order of its importance also helps, and it is often possible to put a number of chores off until another day.
Get into the habit of ticking off each chore as it is completed. This will bring you a sense of accomplishment and relief.
When you are concentrating on someone else’s well-being rather than your own, it often means that you are not concentrating on your own physical and emotional needs. This can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure.
- Make sure that you are eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Remember to drink water to keep you hydrated.
- Try to get some exercise whenever you can. If it is not possible to exercise away from the house, try a brisk walk around your backyard or jogging in place. Anything that gets your blood flowing will be good for you, and it will also make you feel a lot better.
- Visit your doctor on a regular basis to make sure that your health is being looked after.
- Know that you are doing your absolute best, and be proud of what you are achieving.
- Give yourself a hug. You deserve it!
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Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer. Her website can be found at www.lean-on-me.net.