Within our North American culture, we are encouraged to acknowledge, assess, assist ourselves at the end of each year - an opportunity for self-development.
Self-reflection leads us into making New Year's Resolutions - resolution for change.
Our human-constructed calendar help us to draw a line in the sand for endings and new beginnings - the closing of one chapter and entering into another. Our life experiences - births, deaths, marriage, divorce, etc. - also serve the same purpose in a more individual, meaningful way.
In supporting, advocating, caring for family members with chronic conditions, we are guided by different lines in the sand depending on the course of the illness. For instance, as it becomes more difficult to manage Alzheimer's, MS, or Parkinson's in the home, a change to residential care becomes a new path option.
For most family members, acknowledging the realities can be a real challenge, whether it be related to moving a spouse or parent into long-term-care, the progression of illness or accepting a diagnosis. Often assistance is required in assessing the situation and acknowledging that change would be beneficial.
Assistance also includes allowing ourselves to feel, to grieve the upsetting, sad situations that are happening in our lives. It is healthier to express sadness, frustration, anger, guilt and resentment than to bottle it up inside. Sharing these feelings with a close, trusting friend, relative or professional can bring relief, assisting to tone down the negativity. Also, acknowledge, assess, assist that we, as individuals have positives in our lives as well that often get overridden by the negatives.
We need to cater to both our negative and positive feelings.
How do we then release the negative emotions? First and foremost - safely, so you do not harm yourself or others - especially in tending to a caregiving role. Actively,you can take a pillow and hit it on the bed or go in your car, close the window and scream. If a car is not close by, just cover your mouth and scream. Another option is to lie down, rest and allow the feelings to flow, as painful as it may be. It is less painful when we do not resist and you could probably use the rest. It may seem like the painful emotions will never go away. Resistance can make it more painful, though perhaps lingering longer, causing more harm than good.
Assist yourself out of letting negative circumstances define you. Within turmoil, joy can easily get overlooked - your grandchild's laugh, your child's university graduation, your spouse's work promotion, your own accomplishments, watching your favorite movie, spending time with a close friend, etc.
As we enter into the beginning of a new year and all year through, embrace whatever comes with it with support when required from those who care and can assist. It is comforting, healthy and nice to share your experiences.