Counselling and support for both sufferer and family members after a diagnosis of Cancer, MS, MND, Parkinsons Disease, an aquired or traumatic brain injury, Alzheimers, Dementia or any life changing illness or health event.
Throughout life people face many trials and tribulations. Most cope, and cope well. The initial reaction on hearing that you or someone you love has a diagnosis of any chronic illness can be one of shock and disbelief. It may be difficult to take in the news. There can be a period of bewilderment, confusion and an attempt to try to deny reality. Fears and concerns about the future may step in, for example, ‘Who is going to care for me/my family member? ‘Will I have to give up work?’ ‘How will we cope with this as a couple/family? This can be accompanied by a significant increase in stress and its symptoms – sleeplessness, agitation, mood swings, anger and fatigue.
The impact of the diagnosis can add an extra strain to relationships. How you and others cope with the news of the diagnosis will probably be related to how you react and how you have reacted in other times of crisis. Reactions and responses to the situation will be different for each individual and for each family.
A full range of emotions can arise at this stage: shock, disbelief, anger, maybe a sense of feeling trapped, or victimised (why me/us?), and they are all quite normal. However, they need to be acknowledged, expressed, and dealt with appropriately. Too often, lashing out at those nearest to us is what actually happens, and this causes more hurt and anger.
Feelings of deep grief and loss are also common, and are to be expected. A loss of your hopes and dreams for the future, and anticipation of further loss, of your loved one, or your own life expectancy. Professional help in navigating your way through these difficult days will make your experience more manageable, and less overwhelming.
At the time of diagnosis, although it may not seem at all possible, it has been shown that good support can be crucial. It can also be a time when existing supports of family and friends can be challenged. Talking to others who have been through this experience, finding professional help and being around those people that can listen and be there for you may help you to maintain your sense of self and for you to find hope in what may seem the most devastating of circumstances. Being able to communicate your feelings will help to reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness.
Caring for someone with a chronic illness can be tiring and stressful. When you are caring for others it is easy to forget to care for yourself. It may be difficult to find time to focus on yourself and your needs. It is very important to do so – it can prevent frustration and burnout. A burnt out, exhausted and angry carer is no use to anyone least of all themselves. Self care is about taking time out for self, to revitalise, nurture and nourish.
You may feel guilty about needing or wanting some time out for rest, socialisation and fun. Everyone deserves regular and ongoing breaks from work – including caregivers. It is important to eat well, to exercise and to get a good nights sleep, as well as having other social contact. When you do not take care of yourself, you are prone to increased anxiety, depression, frustration which will make it more difficult for you to be there for the person that you are caring for. You cannot stop the progression or impact of the illness, but there is a great deal you can do to take responsibility for your personal well-being, which in turn can help your family member, and begin to move towards getting some of your own needs met.
Sharing your feelings with a counsellor in a sacred and confidential space is an immensely valuable support for you to have. In counselling, you have the freedom to be completely honest, without any fear of being judged. You will be fully accepted for who you are and what you are feeling, as one human being to another, and in complete safety.
Counselling can offer :
- Reaction to diagnosis and prognosis
- Long term medication
- Terminal illness
- Depression, grief and loss
- Impact on family and friends
- The positive experience in illness
- An ear to listen
- Support in sorting out reaction
- Support in coming to terms
- Ongoing help in self care
It gives you a time to acknowledge that you are feeling frustrated and angry and jealous with a non-family member who will not be hurt or affected by these feelings.
Geraldine Dunne MIACP (BA Hons Psych, MA Counselling & Psychotherapy) is an accredited and experienced Counsellor in the area of chronic and long term illness. Geraldine has worked with both patients and their families dealing with chronic or acquired illness / injury since 2001. Working from a person-centered position, Geraldine can give you the time and space you need to fully explore and resolve your thoughts, feelings and reactions to coping with illness in your life of the life of a family member.
Call Geraldine on 086 8566464 to make an appointment in Sandyford Wellness Centre.