Alzheimer's blog

Caregivers have a great gift to share with each other — their stories

By Angela Lunde December 11, 2012

A few weeks ago Ella, a wife and caregiver, wrote about her possible departure from her support group community. She shared that the support group includes many new members who often come with feelings of grief and anger, as well as experienced participants who continue to attend even after the death of their loved one. Ella wrote that lingering disbelief and years of loneliness dwell with many in her support group family.

Ella, 80 and still caring for her husband, went on to say that after many years of attending the support group, she feels she doesn't have much to offer anymore. She said perhaps she should move on. While that's understandable (everything has a time and a place), I wonder if Ella recognizes the gift she has given and keeps on giving.

Ella teaches others about stretching beyond the grief and anger by reaching out to those who share a common path. I know how difficult it can be for caregivers to feel that they have the energy to open up to others. Ella may have felt that same reluctance in the early years. And yet, she's an example that on the other side of isolation sits connectedness, offering a way to greater resilience and ease.

Ella teaches others that the most difficult times eventually pass and that patience, love and peaceful days can find their return. And perhaps what I love the most, Ella is an example of living through life's heartache with dignity and grace.

Her gift is her willingness to be vulnerable and to share her story, her beautifully imperfect life — a life that offers lessons in resilience, dignity and hope. And when she shares with others (and us) in her support group, the notion that she is disconnected dissolves. Perhaps this is the gift Ella receives in return.

Without a way to share our stories and our struggles, we are left feeling lonely, indifferent and out of touch with our life's meaning and purpose. We can end up feeling unworthy, unloved and even sick. Sharing and telling our stories with others who will listen and who really care may be the most powerful medicine on earth.

I encourage you all to find ways to connect and share your story — this will be a lasting gift to you. Listen with empathy to others who share their story — this is the gift you give to one another. Know that you are not alone. In Ella's words, "it will be all right."

I wish you joy and ease this holiday season.

Angela

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Dec. 11, 2012