I’m considering this post my personal emotional check-in/answer to the question I posed at the end of my previous post.
Back in April I was feeling “overwhelmed” (if I had to choose just one word) when I wrote this post. Everything was “too much, too fast”. I’ve been through hard times before and I’d like to think that I’m more patient than the average person, but lately rather than feeling overwhelmed I’ve found myself feeling annoyed and irritable. I hate the uncertainty in the world and I’m sick of feeling “trapped” inside. And then, of course, I immediately feel guilty for feeling that way because suffering is relative and there are those who actually are in a trapped situation- kids in abusive or neglectful homes who could benefit from the safety net of public schools opening, women in domestic violence situations who can’t as easily get away from their perpetrator, or the children and families still in detention centers or living in cages. A cage has got to be the epitome of being trapped.
My heart is usually drawn, first and foremost, to children and youth who are suffering. I have admittedly never been interested in working with the elderly- as needful a population as they are. However, I must admit that I’ve become much more aware of the mental and physical trauma that the senior citizes around the world are currently facing- not to mention financial concerns. If anyone has a right to complain about lack of connection, feeling trapped, or facing the realistic possibility of death from COVID-19 it’s the elderly.
I have two elderly parents right now in their late 80s who, fortunately, are still able to be very much connected to and supported by their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Although my parents have some risk factors in addition to their age, their health is currently stable. My in-laws, however, who are roughly the same age as my parents, have faced some unique challenges over the past year including having to sell their home of decades and moving into an Assisted Living Center where they could both have access to 24 hour care since their children were not realistically able to provide that to them. [That’s the condensed version of the story anyway- omitting numerous falls, an emergency brain surgery, children taking turns to care for them in their home, and a convalescent period at a rehabiliation center before one of them was able to transition to Assisted Living].
My in-laws have adjusted well to their new living situation, but they are both currently struggling with feeling “trapped” as their facility has been on lockdown the past several months. As upscale and nice as their particular facility is, I overheard my mother-in-law liken the helpless feeling she had of not being able to have visitors in her suite or not being able to leave the facility except for medical appointments and other necessities as being in prison.
Last month I was having a conversation with my mother-in-law (we can visit with them outside their windows or through glass if we want to go in person) and it became evident to me that in addition to the new stress and uncertainty she is facing surrounding COVID restrictions and precautions, she is also still grieving her former independence and home. Speaking of her home she said, “I don’t believe I’ve ever shed more tears over having to say goodbye to my home than I even have over a living person who has died.” I hadn’t quite understood the enormity of her grief and loss until I heard her say that. Because the circumstances leading up to selling her home and moving into an Assisted Living Center were due to an unexpected event and her transition happened within months without much time to process everything, it fell into the category/definition of trauma being “too much, too fast.”
When I heard my mother-in-law express her grief I also thought of the thousands of children in foster care who- at a moment’s notice- are moved from their homes without time to say goodbye, are given a garbage bag to collect their essentials, and are placed into a stranger’s home in cases where they can’t be placed with relatives. “Too much, too fast” certainly applies to refugee families who are willing to leave their homeland under dangerous circumstances without much except the clothes on their backs in order to escape poverty, violence, exploitation or government oppression.
On a personal level of experiencing “too much, too fast”, since I wrote an update four months ago, a couple of significant things have happened in my life. These aren’t necessarily bad/traumatic things, but they have required much effort and encompass a lot of CHANGE:
- - I finished up my Masters Degree in Social Work! Which means, among other things, that I will have more time to read and write just for fun than for a graded assignment or research.
- -I had a virtual job interview and I will be starting a new position in the Fall doing what I did at my last internship- providing therapy to children and adolescents- most of whom are in the foster care system or have been adopted.
-Our family moved into a bigger home. We’ve been looking for homes for three or four years now so although our move wasn’t necessarily unexpected or due to financial hardship or job loss, we certainly didn’t envision that our next move would coincide with a pandemic!
- Because we now have more space, we are in a position to house elderly parents, if needed, or to host another foster child or two. (The prospect of housing not just one but two elderly parents certainly influenced our decision to start the school year out virtually rather than in person). Although I still feel like we’re getting settled into our house, I am also aware that other populations- including the elderly, children in foster care, or refugees- are at particular risk for going through “too much, too fast” without needed supports in place. I don’t know for certain who exactly will be joining our household over the next year or two, but I’m a firm believer that if you have more than you need, then you share.