For the last 8 days I’ve been battling a sinus infection. I’m feeling almost…ALMOST…normal (well, for me anyway). I missed work most of last week and have a lot of catching up to do. Being sick gave me a lot of time to think and one of the things I spent a lot of time thinking about was being sick. Genius, right? Though my husband was busy, he took great care of me when he was home and it got me thinking about what it would be like to be sick without him there…
Many of my clients, over the years, have talked about this very thing. One current client has a chronic condition and her husband used to massage her and take care of her on the days she laid low. She says of everything she misses, that’s the most profound. I’ve heard this from just about everyone who has ever lost a spouse/partner/significant other. There have been client’s who needed surgery, became terminally ill, developed a chronic illness, lost some mobility and ability, and those with the common cold. No matter the ailment, the absence of the person who used to care for you can be overwhelming. And there’s nothing worse than a slobbering cry when your nose and sinuses are already ready to explode. So how do you learn to take care of yourself?
1. Acknowledge the loss. Spend some time marinating in the fact that whoever took care of you is not there. Sounds obvious, I know. However, most of us are expert at avoiding that very subject. Take a little time to allow the grief to be felt. Have a good cry. Then blow your nose, take a deep breath and get going.
2. Figure out your human resources. Family? Friends? Neighbors? Agencies? Who can you call for small favors? Who can you call for larger favors? Collect all of the phone numbers you’ll need in one place. Recommendation: if you are not currently ill, this would be a useful thing to have available should you become ill. It would even be helpful if you asked these people in advance if they would be willing to help. That way, you’ve got a plan in place and can stop worrying about what you’d do!
3. Let go of the “I don’t like to bother anybody” mentality! You need help. Ask for it. And be specific. Ask for someone to go to the pharmacy or grocery store for you. Ask a neighbor to leave your mail and newspaper inside your screen door. Hire a dog walker (neighbor kid, professional pet sitter) to walk Spot.
4. Ask someone to call you every day…at least once. It’s nice to have someone check up on you to make sure you’re okay or to see if you need anything. This may already happen organically in your family and circle of friends. If the opposite is happening and you’re getting too many calls and are unable to rest, then tell them to stop calling. Simple, right? Appoint one person to be the spokesperson for you and have that person call you each day and report any news to the others.
5. If it’s a more serious illness or issue, then it’s time to gather as much information as you can from people in the know. Call your favorite social worker and ask about care options :-))) If you don’t have a favorite social worker, ask your doctor or local Office of Aging for resources. Find out what the financial implications are of your options. Who would pay for in-home help? What does your insurance already cover? What would you have to pay out-of-pocket?
These are some of the more practical things to do when you’re feeling ill and, obviously, it’s a much more emotional issue than a practical one, but sometimes it helps to have an action plan. Have you lost a partner? Have you been ill since the death? What was that like for you? How did you navigate through it?
Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC
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