November is National Family Caregiver's Month, and it's been a while since I've written about caregiving, so I wanted to take a few minutes to do just that.
Family caregivers aren't "professionals" per se. While many of us have the skills that only years of experience can provide, most of us didn't choose this role. We're simply family members who have rearranged our lives to provide care for our loved ones.
We carry the weight of our family's needs on our shoulders. Our loads are unbearably heavy. And sometimes we drop it all over the place. But we always gather it back together, find a way to pick it all up again, and somehow carry on.
Everyone tells us we are the strongest people they know - and we are. Even at our weakest. Simply because we must be.
Everyone sees us as these solid figures supporting our loved ones ... but that's really just the first layer.
If you are a family caregiver, I want you to know that I see more.
I see the way you care for your loved one just so, so you can make them as comfortable as possible even if you can't take away their pain.
I see your vast knowledge of your loved one's condition, the way you know exponentially more than any medical professional overseeing their care.
I see you expertly connect tubes, administer injections, and handle all matter of bodily fluid with grace, and without hesitation.
I see the way you've learned to navigate a broken healthcare system to get your loved one the services and equipment they need.
I see all the hours of work and sweat and planning that happens just so you can get your loved one out of the house.
I see the way you smile sadly at the photos your friends post during the summer of their perfect families on their perfect vacations.
I see how you never sleep, not deeply, because you have to be ready to jump into action when needed. And you're always needed.
I see you struggle with self-care because sometimes the thought of taking care of one more person is just too much, even if that person is you.
I see the way you step away from it all and take a moment for yourself in the closet or in the bathroom and let the tears fall.
I see the way you step back in, exhausted but capable.
I see how caregiving consumes you because it demands so much of you.
I see that there's more to you than caregiving, and when you take a little bit of time to reconnect with your own passions I see the joy it sparks.
I see your gratitude, your tears, your heartbreak, your laughter, your anger, your relief, your exhaustion, your frustration, and your deep, unflinching love that all make up the impossibly difficult thing you do called caregiving.
I see you because I am you.
And I want you to see you too.
Family caregivers often take a backseat role when a loved one's injury, illness, or disability is on center stage. But we're often the ones making it all happen behind the scenes. Keeping the production moving forward.
Afterall, the show called life must go on.
If you know a caregiver - whether they are new to caregiving, if they're in the thick of it, or if their caregiving days have passed - please share this.
Let them know you see them.