Validation

Betty, who is 90,
lives with her daughter, Laura.
They’ve been very close
through the years,
and now they’re close
in another way:
as care receiver and caregiver.
Theirs has been a reversal of roles.
Once so competent and independent,
Betty wants to carry on in life
as she has up until now.
But physically she is no longer strong
and mentally she is no longer competent,
which means she can no longer be independent.
The mother must now endure having limits
being put in place by her daughter.
And the daughter, always so obedient,
must be something other than obedient
if she’s going to provide truly loving care.
Neither quite likes her evolving role.
Both are grieving.
Betty grieves the loss of her abilities
and the loss of her freedom.
Laura grieves the loss of her mother
as she once knew her.
Now daily they do their dance of life together,
one learning painfully to lead,
the other learning painfully to follow.
Sometimes they step on each other’s toes.

Without question, those who are forced
into needing another’s care—
in this case our care—
have their work cut out for them.
Often they must deal with some sort of pain.
Their condition may lead them toward all sorts
of strong feelings.
They may also be grieving—
grieving what they’ve lost,
what they must give up,
what will never come to be.
They need and deserve our validation
for all that they now face.
But that is not the entire story.
Our caregiving leads us toward our own pain,
our own strong feelings,
our own grieving.
While we may feel sad about their sadness,
we’ll likely have our own sadnesses too.
Our fears, anxieties, and griefs will be different,
and perhaps less obvious, than theirs,
but that doesn’t make them any less important.
So, yes, let us care deeply for all
that is happening to the one in our care.
And let us be equally aware
of that which is happening to us, in us.
We can always use some validation ourselves,
and if it comes from nowhere else,
may it come from within.
May we also find it in these very words.

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