To grasp how our individuals selves and families respond to loss is crucial to creating a constructive engagement with us during experiences of illness.
Within any home, social, or medical settings certain voices are less likely to be raised or heard than others, especially during the often hurried encounters within the medical setting.
We can make the effort to listen to others’ distress, as well as to what remains unmentionable or is only suggested. Changes that may be medically or therapeutically necessary for me may increase the burden on an uncomplaining Sheila.
Many caregivers who feels ashamed that he or she grieves for the loss of a pleasure, or guilty about how minor that loss seems compared to the disability of the “patient” may never speak of it. Family members may naturally not tell of the losses they incur. They may feel obliged to surrender their claims of pain or even their own need to fulfill other family responsibilities.
When illness arrives on the scene, the possibility of psychological cacophony is quite high as inner and outer voices struggle to be heard and others search for silence and hiding. We who are ill as the “well” need to really listen.
Justified or not, what often frustrates me is when people say to Sheila, “you need to take care of yourself, (whatever that means).” First, it’s an empty remark unless they offer concrete ways or help to do that. It’s as if people think love or caring is simply a feeling. Love or care are just a four letter words unless I see the acts that the emotions are intended to motivate. Second, it demonstrates a lack of knowledge or sensitivity to the systemic reality that, to repeat, individuals don’t have illness, families do and every action has rippling, consequences.
When we lose touch with the distinct suffering of the souls of individuals and families, we run the risk of being swallowed by the values and ideology of the collective. On the other hand, the good that may come from some calamities, including the opportunity to be generous or helpful is often what is most difficult to perceive.