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Caregiving can be a lonely journey

by Isabel Fawcett

There is no shame in feeling lonely when you are a part- or full-time caregiver for a loved one. As you sacrifice your own needs to meet the needs of your loved ones, you may stumble upon moments of loneliness. Find out why these moments of loneliness are not wrong and should be embraced.

I often recall a presentation made by my Dad in the 1970's where the overarching message was that sometimes, even when one is part of a crowd, it is possible to feel lonely. In my teens, I had no clue I might one day understand his message from my heart. Now that I'm a full-time, mature caregiver, his message about loneliness, even in midst of a crowd, has finally come home to roost.

Loneliness in Caregiving: Even When Surrounded by Family and Friends

Unlike some caregivers, I am blessed to have immediate family whom are wonderful long-distance caregivers. Although they are far away, I relish daily contact and support, across the miles by telephone, e-mails, U.S. postal deliveries, and the occasional visit.

I am further blessed by a local circle of friends and neighbors who really do mean: "Call me at any hour of the night or day if you ever need me." The caring individuals who grace my life, some of whom visit Mom just to say hello and offer hugs to both of us, have demonstrated time and again how much they really do mean what they say.

A few of my friends have kindly offered to visit and/or stay with Mom, including overnight if need be, or take Mom to doctor's appointments should I be unavailable. I would be remiss to not recognize others in my caregiver's journey.

Why then, might I ever feel lonely?

The Humanity of Loneliness

As my Dad wisely taught me, occasional feelings of loneliness are a natural life occurrence. First and foremost, I learned that occasional loneliness simply means that I am human.

One of my favorite images is an older man with gray hair seated on a park bench with his back to the camera. The man looks off into the distance at a perfectly green park where there is no other living creature in sight. Written on the back of the park bench is a hand-painted message that says: "We all get to feeling a little lonely sometimes."

Of course we do if we care to admit it. Caregivers necessarily make weighty decisions, emergency judgment calls, and regularly face uncertain outcomes. For me, feeling lonely only seems to make cameo appearances in the middle of the night when EMS has long since departed after having stabilized my loved one's health. There I sit, alone, on my welcoming sofa in the wee hours as Mom rests peacefully and time stands still.

Loneliness is always the same--even if you and I are blessed to be surrounded by caring earth angels. There is no feeling of shame if you suffer from moments of loneliness. Remember, these are true moments of humanity.