When someone you love is very ill or dying, life has a way of shrinking. You may find yourself pulling back from the rest of the world as you shift your focus to this one you love. All the sudden your world becomes you and your loved one and whoever else interacts with the two of you, and that’s it.
You may find yourself losing interest in anything non-essential. You may find yourself unable to muster the energy to hang out with friends. Anything noisy or chaotic or busy may feel too overwhelming. Like your loved one, you may find you need to focus inward.
You may find yourself postponing projects and canceling engagements. You may find yourself not caring about monetary things, not caring so much about your own health, and not caring about anyone else’s petty concerns.
You may find yourself sad and lethargic. You may find yourself quiet. You may find yourself sitting in a chair with no impulse to move anywhere.
All of this is normal in such a situation. You are wrestling with some big emotions – worry and fear, sadness and grief, compassion and love.
This is a time for great gentleness. This is not the time for self-judgment or shame. You are in one of the great existential periods of your life. You may find yourself asking “why” questions and coming up with no easy answers. Or perhaps your head understands a bit about what is going on but your heart is struggling nevertheless.
So what do you do when someone you love is very ill or dying? You love them to the best of your ability. And you try to remember to love yourself as well.
This is hard work. Being ill and dying is very hard work. And loving the person who is very ill or dying is hard work. Please be exceedingly kind to yourself. This is a tender and fragile time.
Ask for help when it’s needed. Ask for support from those able to give it. Seek comfort and guidance from your God and angels, if you believe in them. And please, don’t do too much. Spend time in solitude. And if some healthy distraction is needed, allow yourself to succumb. Being a witness, a presence, and a support to someone struggling through an illness or death can be a marathon. And sometimes you may simply need a break. Allow it.
I am in this place right now. And for those of you who are as well, I send much love.