This is a very difficult post of me to write because whilst I think I have something important to say I fear that I am trespassing on the privacy of a friend. I also do not wish at all to elicit any sympathy for my own position – my burden is truly light by comparison. In as much as it is any burden at all I bear it most willingly and with great appreciation that I am trusted.
The husband of a very close friend is seriously ill at the moment. It has got me thinking about how to be a good companion in these circumstances.
I don’t know that I am getting it right but these are the guidelines I am using:
1. I trust that my friend has her husband’s back. She is providing the best care of him that she can. My role (in as much as I participate at all) is to attend to my friend.
2. I recognise that there is very little I can physically do to make her experience any easier right now.
In such circumstances, if we are to be useful we must undertake befriending our own sense of powerlessness. Trying to assuage our fear of lack of control by second guessing our companion’s choices is not helpful. If my sense of powerlessness is strange and confusing to me – my job is to find someone else (removed from the situation) to help me to deal with that. Otherwise the person in my friend’s position is burdened with caring for me too!
I am beginning to think that all I can offer is my willingness to be powerless and to trust that if something tangible is needed either I will see it, or she will ask me.
Most of us find confronting our own lack of control disorientating and frustrating. So we do all we can to avoid it. But in such cases our avoidance comes at tremendous cost for the person who is in pain. In our avoidance we leave our companion out in the cold alone whilst we hover around trying desperately to be useful.
If we cannot befriend our powerlessness we must understand that however generous our intentions we are probably adding to the burden, not mitigating it. The real pain of suffering is the inability to change anything. Until we confront that in ourselves we are not really walking alongside at all, we are merely spectators.