In my last post I talked about some of the on-going challenges that are being faced in long-term-care and introduced the concept of holding both. What I am referring to is noticing when two or more emotions/thoughts/experiences are present at the same time and giving yourself permission to have both.
Let’s walk through this together.
You can use these steps any time you are experiencing emotions and thoughts:
· Notice the feelings and name them
· Recognize how they are affecting you
· Ask yourself where you think these feelings are coming from
a. Do they remind you of a similar situation?
b. Do they remind you of a different situation that had similar feelings?
c. (Try to do this with open-mindedness and curiosity rather than self-judgment).
2 Common Examples:
1. I feel so guilty that they are in a long-term care home now, and I also feel really relieved because it was getting too hard to care for them. This involves an adult child who was caregiving for an aging parent and the emotions are guilt and relief.
How to hold both?
· Start with steps 1 - 3
· Know that guilt is one of the most common feelings felt by folx who have a Loved One in care. This is normal. It is also completely normal to feel relief at the same time. In this example, it is highlighted that the Loved One in care had needs that were beyond the capacity of the adult child who was caring for them.
· What typically helps when holding both guilt and relief?
i. Do remind yourself: that a team of experts including a doctor assessed your Loved One and determined their level of care needs
ii. Do note: that our society typically demands always putting others before yourself, or always giving, or working all the time
iii. Do note: that people around you may have also placed unrealistic expectations on you that lead you to feeling that you have to care for someone 24/7
iv. Do ask yourself: is this my voice or someone else’s? Tell yourself that no sole human being on the planet could care for another adult human 24/7
v. Do: give yourself permission to feel both emotions
2. I am so angry that my parent put my other parent in care, but maybe they were being serious that my parent needed 24/7 support; I also feel embarrassed. The second example involves an adult child’s perspective on their parents and the emotions are anger and embarrassment.
How to hold both?
· Start with steps 1 – 3
· Know that often, in this context and generally speaking of course, anger and embarrassment are fueled by other experiences or expectations outside of the parent moving into long-term-care.
· It is not uncommon to initially feel angry, later feel embarrassment, and at other points, feel a combination of the two. The embarrassment may be directed towards your anger, it may be directed to the situation that your parent is in care, or it may be there for an unknown reason.
o What typically helps when holding both anger and embarrassment?
i. Do remind yourself: to give permission for both emotions to be present
ii. Do make yourself aware: if your emotions are driving decision making and
behaviour, as this can often lead to difficult circumstances.
There are no “right or wrong” or “good or bad” emotions. All of them are valid. I invite you to instead view emotional responses as information. Get curious about what they are trying to tell you. When you create space and give yourself permission to hold both, you can respond to your situation with awareness.