Tough times reveal many things.
We discover how strong and true friendships are, we find inner resources we didn’t know we had, and we learn what really gets us through the most devastating events.
What I’ve been going through recently has revealed all of the above and more. It’s been only three-and-a-half months since my fit, healthy partner had a major stroke.
He went from able-bodied and highly functioning to now needing me to talk on his behalf, organise everything for him, and even cut his toenails. The devastation and grief has been massive for both of us. It’s a long journey back from a wheelchair and ground zero language.
But he’s doing it. The man has the determination of Hercules. He’s up and walking again— albeit like a drunk person—but he’s mobile. Massive round of applause. Thank you. He’s very self-focused. I guess he needs to be.
There’s not much room in our relationship for me or what I might need from him right now. Forget that.
That’s not easy—but there’s a big list of “not easy” where we are.
These past three months I’ve hit the wall a bazillion times. So much has been required of me in so many ways, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. The intensity has been relentless. There were many nights where, when I switched off the light, my last thought was.
Enough already. Go jump up and down in someone else’s life darkness, you freak.
In the eye of the sh*tstorm when I felt like I couldn’t stand, could no longer see my partner’s face criss-crossed in confusion when he tried to speak, but failed. Couldn’t take in one more piece of information from another medic or social worker or therapist. It wasn’t the snatches of meditation that got me through, though that helped. It wasn’t the very basic efforts at self-nurture either, though that helped too.
What got me through was friends and family.
Their love and kindness. The love and kindness of people who did the hard yards. People who were willing to give. People who made time.
Let’s never underestimate how much difference we can make with kind words, a hug. Some connection. Encouragement. It’s easy to dismiss the power of our love to strengthen and hold up another. When you take away all the fancy stuff we are pack animals. We are like dogs and lions, we are mammals who need each other. Mammals who if we cry out in the dark and nobody comes, we may die.
When people we care about are going through tough times we are often challenged to know what to do or say. We can feel useless because we don’t know how to help; everything we can think of to give seems inadequate. We can avoid rather than face people because of these feelings, and that leads us into shame and guilt which makes it all worse.
It’s okay to not know what to say.
It’s okay to not know what to do.
Sometimes life blows things apart with such velocity that we’re rendered speechless. Actionless. Bereft of our usual knowing. But the most important thing rather than think we have to know what to say or do, is to meet the person who is hurting. I don’t necessarily mean meet physically; I mean be present to what somebody is going through. Reach out. Connect. Genuinely share and engage with what is going on. Some friends told me they didn’t know what to say, I understood. Words fall away and that’s okay what’s more important, is being there.
During hard times, it’s often the strength and love of others that really gets people through. If we become paralysed by our own uncomfortable feelings and do nothing or very little, we can add to the pain somebody is dealing with by not showing up when they need us.
Very sad things happen. We get ill, divorced, folks die.
There are accidents and horrendous events.
Not many of us escape life’s darkest times.
In light of this, I’d like to share five very short but highly potent questions and statements that were offered to me by various beloveds over the last few months. They were exactly what I needed. They are absolutely what got me through.
I love you.
I’m here for you.
What do you need?
What will get you through the next few days?
You can do this.
I love you.
Author: Dettra Rose
Image: Mysi at Flickr
Editor: Renée Picard