My mother-in-law recently broke her hip in three places, had immediate surgery to repair it, and is now home and recovering well. It is an interesting adventure for sure and a very personal and instructive one indeed.
You see Diane didn’t die, though she did at the age of 75 recognize her life is finite. Her dream of living a good life and then gracefully dying without any medical traumas had just died and along with it many other things we might not necessarily link to death or loss. Let me list a few for you so you can see and understand all the other losses we can experience that mimic death.
Diane led and will likely lead again a very active life. She was always out and about, an art class, Spanish classes, visits with friends, outings, shopping – she was free and very mobile. Diane also prided herself in being a caring person and supported family and friends in need. She was independent and self reliant, a take charge kind of gal.
Well, all of a sudden much of how Diane lived her life was no longer available to her. She lost, at least temporarily, her;
- Hobbies and Pastimes
- Social Outings
- Ability to Contribute, and
- Role or Position in the Family
All of these represent mini-deaths, losses that are a direct result of her broken hip. Each of these changes had and has an emotional and mental basket of responses to each loss. Each needs to be recognized, acknowledged and dealt with in order that Diane has a full and healthy recovery. It is challenging because Diane wants her ‘normal’ back. She wants to be able to hop in the car and go to art class; she wants to hop in the car and go shopping or visiting; she wants to get into the garden and do some fall clean up; she wants to contribute to the family chores and tasks of daily living.
Her family now needs to step into those roles and tasks until she is once again able to participate fully. We become her arms and legs so to speak; we become her driver; we become her shopper; her cook; her helping hand; and admittedly Diane resents it all. Though appreciative of all the support she just wants her ‘normal’ back; her freedom to come and go; and her capacity to do things for herself.
So it is tender territory we walk through when we give care to others. How do we do so and at the same time empower those we give care to in ways that they can still feel valued and valuable and not a burden?