Awakenings have been happening left and right in my corner of the world. I realized most of my relationships have involved extensive care-giving, and being a single parent for 11 years is probably the definition of care-taking. Even though my impulse to give care is strong, how can I expect to share the water of healing if my well is empty?
I also have realized for the first time that my job of 18 years working for hospitals exposes me to "secondary post-traumatic stress" because it involves passively listening to people's medical traumas day in, day out, without any ability to take some action directly. This work history gifts me with a broad understanding of the medical world and language, which can be helpful to understand what caregivers are going through, but I now need to seek support when it feels difficult to continue absorbing this information in such isolation.
While attending the pediatric cancer to wellness conference a month ago, I obtained valuable contacts for networking and heard kudos for this Healing Outdoors concept. Yet I have done next to nothing with these contacts. I have been coping with seasonal depression as I move into the darker winter months, the anniversary of the most traumatic period of my life, and the frustration of not feeling able to pour spirit-driven energy into this. Yet. I will get there, and I hope you will walk with me when the time comes.
In my volunteer service with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society First Connection Program, I provided phone support for parent caregivers facing a similar diagnosis of their child as mine had. These moments have been the most meaningful to me of any in my life. Mostly people in crisis want someone simply to listen who has walked that road before. But aside from listening, I always advise parents to please remember to breathe, take moments for themselves whenever possible, and do some small thing to care for themselves each day. Now I need to take this advice myself.
For the next month or few, my work will be to heal myself further so I can assemble a Healing Outdoors network and service provider team. I believe people will appear when I am stronger and they are interested in this work of addressing traumas of acute non-medical caregivers in hospitals.
This photo is taken by a medical caregiver who is at this very moment taking some badly needed self care in a lovely relaxing location. Ahhh. I can smell the warm salt air and feel the sand beneath my feet (that's the power of visualization for you).
Here is a great link describing many resources on this topic: Mayo Clinic on Caregiver Stress