Have you ever found yourself in a situation, seeking a solution, and you say to no one in particular, “That’s the last thing I would ever do!” But, lo and behold, further on down the road it becomes a viable option to consider, perhaps the best one. I suspect this happens to all of us sooner or later.
Our family finds itself in this place right now as my in-laws struggle, argue, debate, advocate, negotiate and assign various duties to each other, all with the hope and intention of making the best decision for a loved one who is rapidly requiring a greater level of care; greater than can be provided by loving and well-meaning family members.
Eighteen months ago the thought of placement in a memory-care facility evoked denial, tears, massive sadness and even anger. “How could you ever think of doing that?” Today the very same consideration results in emotions of peace, comfort, responsibility and reconciliation. What changed?
I think several factors change as we reposition from worst case to best case. The obvious one is the passage of time and the progression of the problem. Time does not just make difficult things more difficult, it can also make things stronger. Love grows stronger, children and flowers grow more beautiful and inventive ideas morph into realities. But time also can see sickness overtake health and memories, once vivid with acute clarity, fade to vague generalizations.
Greater information, dispensed with accuracy, is also part of the change that must be experienced. Better decisions can be made when true and precise knowledge is gained. Perhaps the most helpful knowledge is the honesty of the situation which can be harsh but does not let us shy away from the inevitable. From the cradle to the grave we make one trip up Maslow’s ladder and the return trip back down. We begin with a need for basic biological and physiological care like security and safety and the provision of our most primitive needs to give us life. After a journey up the ladder to experience belonging and love, a healthy self-esteem and status and, ultimately, personal growth and fulfillment, we begin our descent. If one is fortunate enough to maintain all of one’s faculties, the achievements of loving relationships, personal satisfaction and security do not fade. However, if that is not the case, basic safety and care-giving of the essential life needs must be the priority.
Reconciling oneself to the reality of a situation is a requirement to be able to move forward. In the world of grief counseling, Acceptance is viewed as the final stage of successfully, albeit painfully, navigating through the grief process. I never could “accept” Acceptance which is defined as both a favorable reception and the taking of something offered. Emotionally this doesn’t square with me. Instead, I’ve always found the word Reconciliation abundantly more suiting. To reconcile means to make compatible and to re-establish. This task seems achievable to me as it allows us to readjust to the certainty of something we cannot control, permitting the healing to re-establish our new reality.
The tears will still fall but honesty and courage can sometimes transform the worst to best.