The Disappearing Act

Where did everyone go?

where did everyone goThis is what I have heard countless times from people as they walk the many months (or years) of cancer treatment and its aftermath. Time passes quickly for the rest of us. Time for those dealing with a life threatening illness takes on a whole new dimension. Hence, our absence is felt more than you can even imagine.

Why is it so hard to hang in there over the long haul during these very stressful, unsettling times?  One common reason is burnout. Those who step up to provide support in the very beginning can end up carrying too much of the load when no others show up.  It is critical if you are one of those wonderful human beings who decided to stand by your family member or friend to take the time needed for restoration. Additionally, for those of you on the front lines caring for your loved ones remember to pace yourself and know that you can’t possibly cover all the bases. Caregivers fare better when self-care is a top priority.

Another reason, unfortunately, why people disappear is that we all get very busy and time gets away from us.  But, we cannot always hide behind our overbooked, oversubscribed, full lives …Okay, right about now, you may be feeling a tad uncomfortable. If so, hang in there and know that this is not meant to make you feel guilty.  Take this time to reflect upon these insights and decide. Decide if this is relevant or important enough to you, then… read further and consider responding differently in the future.

Look, technology has made it easier than ever to “connect”.  Email, text or Facebook can take just a minute. At a minimum it provides a means to let someone know that they are still on your radar screen. A few months ago I spoke with a woman who is fighting her second battle with cancer. She shared, “I know people are busy, I just wish I knew that they were thinking of me; it gets pretty lonely sometimes. I don’t want to burden people; I just want to feel loved and know I’m in their thoughts.”  Gulp!

So, why then, does even this level of checking in on someone during a cancer or grief journey remain devoid over and over again?  Lori Hope, one of my favorite authors, Help Me Live - 20 Things People With Cancer Want You To Know, devoted a whole chapter on this topic.  She astutely points out that often it’s not just about your “busy” schedule; it’s more about uncertainty. Often times, we just don’t know what to do or what to say.  Here are just a few ideas of what to say: “I love you so much”… "I’ll be thinking of you at 9 o’clock tomorrow when you get your chemo”...”It’s normal to feel depressed, terrified, overwhelmed”….”Do you want to talk about it or are you all talked out”…”It’s ok to cry, I’m right here.” One of my favorites is to tell someone on a voicemail message, “no need to call me back, just thinking of you and sending love.”  These are just a few to get you thinking, Lori Hope’s book has many more helpful suggestions.

Quoting Halina Irving: “No matter how terrible the circumstances for a human being, to feel cared about, attended to, heard, understood, and accepted is the greatest gift we can give that human being ----- the only solace, the only comfort.”

Truly being there for someone is heart work. Time is precious, life is short and the expression of love is crucial to all for our survival. Expressions of love can transcend suffering. Giving the gift of your time and letting people know that you care can be the greatest healing gift you can offer.

Don’t Disappear. Show Up.  Check-in.  Listen.  Love.