This is an article in a series about long-term caregiving.
One of the disturbing feelings that can happen in long-term caregiving is loneliness. This loneliness feeling may come on suddenly. Or, it may linger in the back of our minds and come into awareness in a quiet moment, in the darkness of night when sleep does not come. Or, when we look at our loved one whose mind no longer connects with ours as before.
A kind of awareness of how alone we are. How we do not have the earlier relationship and closeness we had with our loved one before the chronic illness entered our lives. Awareness of the absence of how it used to be for us.
Feeling alone can be unavoidable in long-term caregiving. Even when there are other persons who are involved in what is happening to us. They come and go. We remain.
We remain alone with our loved one who, too, may be experiencing a deep loneliness amid changes that can not be prevented. Changes in declining health of body and mind.
Hopefully there will be times when we together can talk openly about what is happening to us, and
about the changes in our relationship. Hopefully there will be precious times when we together give warmth and affection that drive away our individual feelings of being alone and being lonely. Times when a touch says more than words ever can. A gentle kiss. Holding hands. A smile.
For some caregivers, the feelings of loneliness and isolation are reduced, even if temporarily, when these feelings are shared with others in a support group, or with a counselor, or with a close friend. Talking helps.
About the Author
Hugh Burns is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an ordained clergyman in the PCUSA. Hugh graduated from Presbyterian College and Columbia Theological Seminary. He leads DPC’s Caregivers Support Group and has previously served as a Clinical Chaplain in a mental health center and a hospital. You can reach Hugh by email, at email@example.com.