BlogCoping with IllnessGrief

After the Crisis

There are things that happen in life that change us.  It can be the death of a loved one, a diagnosis, a medical emergency, an emotional break-down.  These moments of crisis take us from the perception of safety and stability that we had “before” into a terrifying new world.  And it’s a new world that many people don’t seem to understand.

Moments of Crisis

People tend to respond to crisis.  If there is a death in the family (particularly an unexpected death), friends, co-workers, and faith communities rally around.  After diagnosis of a serious illness, there’s a flurry of activity on Caring Bridge, or lots of phone calls and other.  Support networks form.  People bring meals.  There’s lots of checking in.

I think that the ability to respond to others in crisis is wonderful.  In our most challenging moments, we need to know that we are loved, cared for, and practically supported.  But, I also think that crisis support fades away.  We don’t have mechanisms for sustaining support–even if that support is desperately needed.

Recovery is a Process, Not a Destination

Whether you are talking about grieving, or talking about how life gets radically restructured after medical emergencies, moments of crisis change our lives.  And the growing pains that result from that change can last for a really long time.  Just because the funeral was two months ago, or you’re home from the hospital, or chemotherapy is over, or your insulin pump is installed–that doesn’t mean that the grief and adjustment have ended.  In many cases, the realities of this “new life” are just making themselves felt.

I told a client today that one reason I work with people affected by serious illness is that, overall, our culture doesn’t do a great job of acknowledging how hard the “after the crisis” adjustment is.  There aren’t very many spaces where it is okay to answer the question, “How are things going?” in a way that tells the truth about how hard and complicated life after crisis can be.  Because other people aren’t living with the daily changes, new fears, and life adjustments, it is sometimes hard for them to understand how exhausting and consuming those changes can be.

I believe that it is incredibly important to acknowledge the challenges of “after the crisis.”  Crisis can sometimes change who we are at our foundation.  So, we need to create space that supports that change.

Supporting the Process

So, if you’re reading this after a crisis in your life, I want to tell you that it is okay to not be okay.  It is natural to have complicated, sometimes contradictory feelings.  It’s not unusual to feel as though you are broken, and making a huge effort to “hold it together.”

And then I want you to know that it is healthy to get support.  To let trusted friends know that, just because the “crisis” is over, the need for support hasn’t gone away.  To reach out to a therapist, support group, or pastor if you’re not getting what you need from friends and loved ones.  To let someone walk through this with you and hold the hope that there is a life after the brokenness.

I’d love to hear from you.  What have you needed people to understand about your “after crisis” experiences?  What was the most helpful thing someone said or did?  What was the least helpful.

 

Photo Credit: Broken Glass by akeg

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9 comments

  1. “SEQUENCE”
    My mind won’t fit inside the box
    That now sits on the table stand.
    It is too full of my ideas
    Not expressed by Woman or Man.

    I cannot walk this thin Tightrope
    That keeps me tilted in the air
    I can only be Who I am,
    No matter if it’s truth or dare.

    The Universe has it’s Order –
    But it also has Chaos too.
    And sometimes, there is no Balance
    Which leaves me options to pursue.

    Some people may think it’s silly
    That my life is in such a mess-
    To answer, yet not conclusive
    Why I am happy, and depressed.

    How did I get inside this Maze
    Is my main question, One on One-
    Not Who will come and get me out
    For my journey has just begun.

    (10-14-19-1-25-12)

    1. Zorro1014,

      Thank you for sharing your poetry with us. It’s clear that you put a lot of thought into that.

      Warmly,
      Ann

  2. Ann, I so appreciated this post. My dad had a fairly catastrophic reaction to surgery in October 2010 and after some time in a coma, he was hospitalized for a couple months with all sorts of set backs. It was such a difficult time for many different reasons. Even months after he was home, my stomach was washed in what felt like acid (I was just awash in cortisol). Even now, when my brother texts to say, “Can I call you?”, I panic, thinking he has bad news. I so appreciate the work you do because you empower voice at times where we feel like we almost don’t have words. Your wisdom and patience and kindness are such gifts.

    1. Rosie,

      Thanks for the kind words. They mean so much coming from you. And the example of your family’s trauma and the ongoing reaction that you have to the text messages is such a powerful example of how the effects of a crisis linger. Thank you for sharing.

      Warmly,
      Ann

  3. Hi Ann – Nice post. My husband had prostate cancer, which was entirely treatable and curable. But it was a long well, thing going there. We had many friends and family embrace us. But the recovery time was long and people are busy. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with him for a few months.

  4. Crisis 1- infertility, chose counseling, as the support group was not helpful 20 years ago. Counseling, did the job, we resolved, adapted, modified our goals, and discovered a marriage and ways to nurture through family
    Crisis 2 Kidney cancer, in husband. Everything happened very quickly, because I advocate for health care. But, it left little time for coping. Afterwards, during recovery, I realized the amt of friends or people who disappeared as if cancer was contagious! husband is in 3rd year of remission.
    Current crisis 3 dx of rheumatoid autoimmune and crohns in me (wife) support group locally, very poor, social networking, found more support on twitter and Facebook! Sign of the times?! The support system locates people close by with similar dx, face to face meetings. I have also gone back to original infertility counselor w husband, and have found some of my closest friends in my positive support system, don’t necessarily have to have same dx. Chronic illness, is chronic illness, caregivers are caregivers….you help each other, no matter what the dx, there is a common ground in caregiving and chronic illness. One of my positive support system members told me today, our chronic illnesses, tho different, has made us kindred souls, and siblings. Saying those words, to me, made me realize, I am not alone. Neither is my husband, as this couple is dealing with a different chronic illness, we still support each other the four of us…as a team.

    1. Kim,

      Realizing that you are not alone is incredibly powerful. Those moments of connection are huge. I think it is incredibly interesting that you have managed to link the coping components of all three crises into something that uniquely fits you. That’s wonderful.

      Warmly,
      Ann

      1. Still a work in progress! But, mentally healthier for it.. (: Kim

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