When I obtained my Master’s in Gerontology, I studied heaps of information and facts about caregivers and how rapidly they can become exhausted taking care of a loved one. I knew the signs, both verbally and nonverbally. I was trained to educate caregivers on options to help them embrace the role of caregiving.
The same month I graduated with my Master’s degree, my mom was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. In case you have not heard of this disease, it is an autoimmune disease that attacks the lung. My mother, with the sense of humor she always had, laughed with me, because ultimately she became my first “client.”
All of the education in the world could not have prepared me for the heartbreaking two-year battle we were about to take on together. My role as a daughter, almost instantaneously changed. I was a parent to my parent and the psychosocial impact of that was difficult for both of us. My mother did not want to be a burden, and she wasn’t, and I wanted to be “just her daughter. “
As my mother struggled for her life and tried to study every option possible to extend her life, I struggled with who I was, how to hold down four children, a husband, and a full time job. Day in and day out, I was caring for my mother and meeting every need she had and trying to sustain peace and organization within my home. My mother lived with us for the entire two-year period and seeing her decline was emotionally tormenting for all.
I found an abundance of information and tips on how to obtain rest, depend on a support system, and make space for myself as I was providing care for my mom. I studied the grieving process for about the tenth time and I understood, from an academic level, what I needed to know, as I took the journey from disease to death with my mom.
What I was lacking was useful, practical, and easy solutions to implement to help me sustain my sense of grounded self, while holding down my entire life that was truly on hold. My priority had become my mom and it made me feel like everything else was falling a part. I was numb with emotional pain and anger, because mom was only 62 when she passed and this shouldn’t have been where it all ended for her. Her story had to have a better ending.
I found life coaching around this time. I was able to apply basic, yet profound, principles into my life that invited practices to move me forward as a person, while climbing this painful mountain of emotions. I listened to coaches, I worked with coaches, I study coaching, I studied and completed life exercise work, and I felt like me again. I was able to hold a piece of me and build upon that piece of me, so that when mom passed, I could move forward with her memories and sustain her energy that would a part of me forever. I was prepared to embrace the emotions of my children and to live this life without my mom. I was going to be motherless in this life and I needed to make it work (somehow) and move through it for my health and my family.
It is important to not get stuck and feel overwhelmed in the caregiving process. It allows you to be present, to accept the time with a loved one as a gift, and to feel your growth in the process. After my experience, I went on to become certified as a life coach. In fact, I started my schooling three weeks after my mom passed. I realized the magnitude life coaching had on my life and how coaching allowed me to take the experience and make the best of it.
I made caregiving support, chronic conditions, terminal illnesses and death and dying a part of the foundation of Kristin Smith Coaching, because I believe there is an authentic need to support people in this process. I am intentional about helping people to maximize their calling to help provide love and care, while harnessing down innovative and new sense of self, energies, and personal philosophies along the way.
If you are facing an illness of your own or the responsibilities of caregiving, it is important that you consider the benefits of coaching and how coaching principles and practices can help move you through the emotional vortex you are currently feeling stuck and overwhelmed in.
Until next time,