The Stroke Network, Inc. )
Where Did Everybody Go?

by Kathy Bosworth


The phone rings in the middle of the night. You know itís not going to be good news. Yet you find your hand reaching for it anyway, knowing it could be a life altering moment. After saying hello in a sleepy, timid voice, you hear a dreaded piece of news. A loved one is in danger and you must go to the hospital quickly. It could be a heart attack, a stroke, or a car accident. It doesnít matter. There is danger and you are the next of kin.

As you are flying around getting dressed, you make a few quick phone calls to significant family members. They in turn start the domino effect by calling a few more. Soon all parties are notified. When you arrive at the hospital you are quickly swept into the fast pace of life or death, beeping machines, doctors and nurses running at high speed in emergency status. 

You are startled to look up and see arriving family members and friends. They have come to offer sympathy, advice, and promises to do whatever you need. The love and support wraps you in a safe cloud that puts distance between you and the unfolding drama.

The hours turn to days and the days into weeks. The crisis passes, but your loved one is still not well. There might be a dismal prognosis, a long recovery expected, or a questionable improvement. The nurses react a little slower; the doctor visits are coming at longer intervals. The crowds around you begin to thin out. After the first week, many times there are only immediate family members left. By the end of the second week, you find yourself scratching your head wondering, where did everybody go?

Realizing that people have gone back to their life before the crisis is often depressing for the family member left to put the pieces back together again. It can send a person into a depression for many reasons. Without the support, you must face a long road by yourself. Without the constant activity, you must face the reality of the situation head-on.

Many life occurrences can cause the same effect in people. The recent hurricanes in Florida are a good example. For the first week or two, every major news crew and camera was focused on the hardships the Floridians were facing. People were aware and offering their help. Then suddenly it was no longer front-page news. People resumed their normal lives in the rest of the country. Did that mean life was rosie in Florida? Hardly. People are still trying to rebuild their houses and lives after the devastation. But they are doing it alone. People that have a death in the family often find they are busy tending to funeral arrangements and accommodating out of town guests. The hectic demands keep a personís mind and body very busy. All too soon, everyone is gone. The silence can be deafening. The decrease in adrenaline can leave one exhausted beyond words in a very physical and mental sense.

What can people do to accept this natural part of life? 

  1. Learn to accept that it IS normal. Iím sure we are all guilty of this at some point over the years. It doesnít mean that people donít care; they simply think you have it all under control.
  2. If someone does call to offer help; if you need it, then by all means be vocal about it. Tell them something specific you could use help with. If they donít do it, you know they were not sincere in their offer and learn to let it go.
  3. Find support groups in your area. You will have a place to vent and find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
  4. Have family meetings and honestly tell the ones who are not contributing what you think they can participate in. They might be capable of running errands to the pharmacy but not much else. You cannot demand that people help, but you can suggest.
  5. Take care of yourself. You will not be much help to anyone if your own health becomes fragile. If you feel you are experiencing signs of depression; get professional help.
  6. Become educated about the medical condition your loved one has. Knowledge is empowering.
  7. Try to accept the fact that people lead very busy lives. Be thankful they were there in the crisis. Accept they cannot be there everyday. Lower your expectations of others. When people do things to help, take the time to call, or bring over a meal, the gesture is that much sweeter and more appreciated.
  8. When your life becomes less hectic and demanding, remember how important it is to be there for others. You have learned a valuable lesson in the power of reaching out to others. Remember that a vague phrase like, call me if you need me is not specific enough. Offer to care for the animals, pick up a prescription, or mow the lawn. It takes a lot of the guesswork away and zooms right in on what you can do.


Kathy is the author of " Your Mother has Suffered a Slight Stroke"


Copyright © January 2005

The Stroke Network, Inc.

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