Relationships are assignments. Not for the faint-hearted, they demand of us compassion, trust, integrity, and flexibility - especially during times of transition or challenge.
A soft-spoken woman in her late seventies raised her hand during question period and said "I've tried everything, but I still can't seem to get out of the house. I don't want to go anywhere or do anything. What do you suggest?
To the casual listener it might appear that this woman let's call her Doris - had a problem that needed fixing.
However truth can be elusive and appearances deceptive - especially when dealing with the complexity of adult child/aging parent relationships.
When I asked Doris for more details, this is what she revealed:
1.She had been happily married for fifty years. 2.Her husband had died two years ago. 3.Her children were worried about her and wanted her to get on with her life - to go out, travel and do things. 4.She wanted to please her children and not be a burden to them. 5.All she really wanted to do was to stay home, to remember her husband and dream about their life together.
During my years of working with clients of all ages, I've learned to question the assumptions which they commonly make about their situation and to listen with my inner ear to the often-unheard voice of their soul.
Doris' situation was a poignant example to me of the confusion and distress which arise when we attempt to run from the normal pain that is an inevitable part of life.
All of us are products of a society which values pleasure and activity and distrusts grief and interiority. We want to banish discomfort from our lives; forget rather than remember; get over it rather than live it.
Doris' entire being was yearning to grieve, yet she and her well-meaning children judged this need as unhealthy. My advice to her was short and simple, "Stay home, remember your husband, and dream about your life together."
Frances Kucharsky, M.A., 11/16/2002
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