Process difficult messages
When she thinks back on the day of the accident, she finds that she was initially in such a state of shock that she did not understand that the doctors were trying to save her husband’s life. “I went to the hospital and asked how Gene was doing, and they offered to pray with me,” she recalls. “When the family members finally arrived, it was a huge relief that they could listen and ask questions, take notes, and talk to the doctor when I wasn’t quite on the trail.”
“The staff threw me questions about the medication he was taking and asked for permission to have the operation. Things went so quickly and I was still processing how we’d come here from a simple walk in the mountains,” Kathleen recalls .
On the home front, Kathleen was fortunate to have friends and family members who supported her and her three children, who were 19, 17 and 13 at the time of the accident. “It is difficult for any child to see someone they love in pain or in a vulnerable place,” explains Kathleen. “Each of us parents is different, and I understood that my children wanted to bury their heads a little in the sand. I didn’t want them to keep watch in the hospital so I was determined to be the one to hold the yoke. “
Circle your group
Kathleen is a CPA and describes herself as someone who is always happy to have the right answer. She is “totally independent” and was always the person other people called when they needed to get things done. She realized the importance of having an outside family support system that she can count on when she is scared or trying to think too far into the future.
“You need people in your inner circle to show the broken pieces and your mess,” says Kathleen. “It was important to me to push back from bed and go for a walk and with these friends or my therapist. You may not be able to fix the problem, but just being able to talk about it helps a lot. “
Kathleen recognized the value of just having people around, even when she didn’t have the energy to talk. The physical presence of loved ones was vital to their well-being, as was the spiritual support of knowing that others were praying for their families.
Dealing with caring guilt
She also struggled with the guilt associated with being a caregiver. A few months after the injury, her friends kidnapped her for a short vacation on the beach. Kathleen struggled with guilt all weekend for doing something for herself. It was on this weekend that she encountered the “wet bathing suit” metaphor.
“The beach is a magical place and – for many – a place of healing,” explains Kathleen. It can also bring you some uncomfortable experiences: jellyfish, storms, and the unwanted realization that you sometimes have to get wet in a swimsuit to keep enjoying the magic.
“Figuring out how to manage after a tragic experience is like putting on a wet bathing suit,” says Kathleen. “This act is awkward and a little unfamiliar, but you have to force yourself to delve into the next phase of.” Your life. In the discomfort of sitting with my sadness and grief, I had to accept where we were in order to move forward positively. “
Dealing with a new world
For Gene, the recovery he worked so hard on came with an unpleasant surprise. Just as he was preparing to return to his alternative energy job, the pandemic hit, forcing everyone to work from home. The loss of physical and social return to his work community was a blow to both.
Kathleen has adopted a philosophical take on pandemic care. “The COVID-19 pandemic will force many of us to act and behave in new ways, and it’s hard to imagine things going back to where we were before,” she says. “If in today’s world you cannot find gratitude for all that is going on, you need to find a way to achieve it.”