“Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss often is given by parents to their children upon high school graduation. The book offers wisdom to individuals entering adulthood as they navigate new challenges and life events. Often, I think back to warm memories of receiving this book upon my graduation before I left for a career in the military. It certainly rang true as I moved from my family in Minnesota to where I now reside in Frankfurt, Germany.
Dr. Seuss cautioned in the book, “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.” When I was young I often disregarded such advice. I often thought I was different, or could overcome any barriers thrown in my way. This attitude highlights how often we forget about these lessons when faced with the impact or consequences of our wandering feet.
When I left Minnesota 12 years ago, I was unprepared for how many events or people I would miss. These included the deaths of all my living grandparents. Was I prepared at the time of my departure to cope with my aging grandparents passing away? In hindsight, the answer was a resounding no. I would like to share my experience of being away while my loved ones navigated the caregiving process.
As my grandparents aged while I was away, it was quite difficult. I frequently felt upset and filled with both anger and shame. Thoughts crept in such as, “Can’t they understand I moved far away?” and “How could I possibly help from here?!”
Despite these thoughts and doubts, there were several things I did to improve my situation. Firstly, I leaned on my support team. I had mentors, friends, and colleagues I could confide in and seek comfort from. Additionally, I also made self-care a priority. I always took time to go to the gym and participate in my usual hobbies. Lastly, I sought out a role for myself in the care team, offering tertiary support such as coordinating services amongst family members, calling my aging grandparents via internet phone services, and handling administrative tasks.
If you find yourself in a similar situation you might find these tips helpful:
- Have an open and honest conversation with the “Captain” or primary caregiver of the caregiving team
- Find a role for yourself on the team. If you’re unsure, ask either the Captain or First Mate (secondary caregiver) for ideas
- Take time to practice positive self-care
- Utilize your support network to help you through navigating troubled waters