It is an empowering feeling when individuals have everything “under control.” Unfortunately the circumstances of caring for family members with chronic illness places individuals in situations where they are out of control. Loss of control can be added to the many situational losses that go along with having a family member with a progressive neurological or chronic mental illness such as Parkinson’s, Acquired Brain Injury, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Alzheimer’s and other related conditions.
Where there is loss, there is reaction to loss – commonly referred to as grief.
Individuals who have lost control certainly feel the angst, frustration – the grief that goes along with it. The loss of control can play havoc in adding to the grief being experienced from other potential situational losses experienced by family caregivers such as loss of the family members as they were prior to illness, the roles the family members played, financial loss, social network, and freedom.
Some losses have more of an impact than others. The impact of loss of control can disempower which can have a huge impact on one’s well being. As a mourning parent for her young daughter, Margarita who drowned, Maria Kubitz wrote in her article Grief and the Loss of Control that she did not know which was worse, the pain of missing her daughter or the pain due to complete loss of control. Maria acknowledged the unpredictability and the unknown that was related to her grief reaction.
Similarly, family caregivers are tossed into their respective unpredictable situations that contain so many unknowns. In my social worker role, I would hear many family care providers voice their despair at not knowing what lies ahead. They have questions that can not be answered and planning the future is challenging. For those who always need a plan, it is even more challenging.
Maria, in dealing with her daughter’s death, relayed that she had assessed coming to terms with her circumstance, acknowledging that grief, by nature is unpredictable and uncontrollable. It assisted her to accept the nature of grief which resulted in feelings of relief. She felt as though a weight was lifted. When the painful feelings came on, sheassisted herself by allowing the pain to be there, knowing it would pass. Maria also relayed that she has moved forward living her life not requiring the control she did in the past, being okay with not knowing how the future is going to unfold.
Although Maria’s situation that brought her into a state of losing control is different from that of caregivers, the offering of coming to terms with loss of control and making peace with one’s situation – whatever it may be – is available nonetheless, with the potential rewards being relief and personal growth.