Saturday, July 12, 2014

Transforming Connection During Illness

Chronic illness in general and terminal illness in particular is frightening. They can be isolating experiences for a patient and his or her family members and friends. What's sad is, at a time when a person needs support the most, he or she often gets it the least. Terminally ill patients can be so profoundly lonely.

My younger sister, many years ago, was dying of cancer. During one of my last hospital visits to her in the ICU room, her tears just erupted. She simply expressed her deep but hidden need to be profoundly touched, visited, and cared for even in the middle of her ordeal. An old adage says about the dying, "You got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself." The nature of terminal illness and eventual death can be so difficult to grasp. Thus, any feeling of isolation from family and friends that such conditions produce may make people feel kind of dead already.

After the initial besieging of food, gifts, and calls from visitors, these may begin to disappear in a chronically ill patient's life as people want to go back to things as they were before. It's common that a patient reacts with feelings of self-doubt - "Perhaps, they don't love or like me anymore." "Perhaps, I was not able to give them attention during their visits." "Maybe, my husband has already changed since my illness."

If you're seriously ill or suffering from a terminal illness, you need transforming connection to help you cope or heal better. You need a safe haven and "space" where you can express your feelings that others may not be capable of handling or not want you to express. The pressures on the sick to keep their spirits up, force cheerfulness and superficiality, and think only positive thoughts can feel isolating. A wise, caring therapist or a support group can be a powerful therapeutic tool at this time. Seeking this help can be life-saving.

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