Does it feel like “New Year, New Me” does not apply to you because your Loved One is in long-term care (LTC) and it feels like nothing has changed with the transition of saying good-bye (and good-riddance for some) to 2020 and saying hello to 2021? You’re not alone.
Many people, just like you, continue to endure the challenging journey of having a Loved One in care during these COVID-19 times. It’s tough. It’s heartbreaking. It’s also remarkable. Remarkable, yes. I truly believe us humans can experience the fear, anxiety, stress, [insert more negative or downcast emotions here] and also feel the deep love, hope, and connectedness [insert more positive or uplifting emotions here] simultaneously. We can hold both. Indeed, we must hold both for it is our truth.
I imagine you must be getting tired of the toxic positivity culture our society has (perhaps too fully) adopted, in light of the fact that many of you can’t see your Loved One in care, or if you are the Designated Visitor having a mere 30 minutes to visit; or if you are a frontlines worker witnessing the hurt and longing for families to be together. I imagine you have heard some variation of, always look to the bright side! Never think of the negative! Shift your focus to the good! We could go on ad nauseum I am certain. The old adage, “too much of a good thing, isn’t good any more”, rings true in this context. However, and with this in mind, humans must be reminded that amidst the very real and very valid negative affect we’re experiencing, we need to look for the positive also.
Toxic positivity often leads to avoidance of feeling, and humans need to release all emotions, not ignore or shove them down. If you do this, you might temporarily feel better, but you will certainly feel worse after a longer period of time in a multitude of ways. Giving space and acknowledgement to everything that is devastating, extremely difficult, frustrating, deeply saddening, even mild annoyance is essential. As is also acknowledging the joy, calm, curiosity, connection, and so on. If you do not intentionally seek the positive, you will likely end up in a spiral and/or feeling rather stuck in some pretty difficult ways. You can hold both.
Please know that I fully acknowledge this short blog entry does not fully encapsulate one’s experience with journeying through having a Loved One in LTC during these difficult times. But I do hope that it resonates for some, and that it begins a conversation, a very worthy conversation of how we can continue to journey through with more options, more support, and more fully being together. Next entry I will discuss some examples of how to hold both.