Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. ~Albert Camus
I can’t think of another time in my life where the love and support of friends has meant more to me than it has over the past several months. This difficult period of time has not only helped me to define friendship, it has inspired me to BE a better friend to the people around me.
Those who know me would tell you I’m not very good at asking for help, and it’s true. I never have been, and I’m not sure where that comes from. Perhaps deep down I feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness. I certainly don’t feel that way about others, but I guess we tend to be most critical of ourselves.
Letting Go of Control
Regardless, in my mom’s final few weeks of life and those that followed her passing, I found myself at a point where I not only appreciated all of the help that was offered, but I truly needed it. Very rarely in my life have I been able to relinquish control and accept help, but during that period of time, it was as though I had no choice. And most of all, I felt a desperate need to know I wasn’t alone.
While I sat by Mom’s bed for those last three weeks, I kept it together because I had to. However, I found myself welcoming anyone who wanted to sit with me, bring by some food, or run an errand for me. Likewise, and even more so, immediately following her death, I was open to accepting help from anyone kind enough to offer. Quite simply, by then I was tapped out and running on empty. I had held myself together for Mom, but once she had transitioned, it was my time to fall apart. And fall apart, I did. I couldn’t focus on much at all, let alone plan a proper Celebration of Life. Support from loved ones meant everything. Truth be told, it still does! It’s been four weeks, and there are many things I haven’t even begun to tackle.
Lost But Never Alone
The lesson here is that when you’re going through a particularly challenging time as a caregiver, there is absolutely no shame in turning to others. Let those who are willing be there to help provide the encouragement, assistance, and strength that you need. Lean on them. People won’t offer unless they genuinely want to be there for you, and allowing them to do something may also make them feel a little less helpless in the midst of a very difficult situation.
I look back over the past few months and wonder what brought me to this point. So much of it is a hazy, distorted blur. The stress and uncertainty, heart wrenching decisions, very little sleep, and witnessing suffering like I’ve never seen and hope to never see again. I really can’t put it into words other than to say that it was surreal. The only explanation for me continuing to get through all of it is guidance from a Higher Power and the love and support of those who surrounded me when I needed them the most…