Category Archives: General interest

Grieving the End of a Relationship

I recently read a post by Zoe Hendrix, whose partner has walked away from their relationship three years after they fell in love on Married At First Sight. 

Here is a quote from her post:

“Have hope, knowing that it’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t love you anymore…
it’s only the end of the world, if you don’t love YOU anymore.”

What a powerful statement! None of us should make another person responsible for our happiness. There will inevitably be times during our lives when someone disappoints, betrays or abandons us in some way, but by working on loving ourselves we can all be comforted by the knowledge that we will be able to heal and move forward.

I was devastated when my husband of almost 25 years ended our marriage and it took me many years to be able to trust someone else with my heart. That didn’t happen until I had done a lot of work to see what part I had played in the demise of our relationship. I discovered that I had given him total power over my happiness and came to realise that this was both immature and unfair. When I felt ready I did meet someone new and I went into that relationship knowing that no matter what happened in the future I would always have me.

So take heart if you are grieving the loss of a relationship and give yourself time to learn who you are and believe that you are enough on your own. It’s human nature to want someone beside us who we feel is our soul mate. Someone who has our back, is our best friend, and will be there for us no matter what. But that should be the icing on the cake and we all need to know that we have the cake already because we love ourselves enough to weather any storm.

(c) Jane Gillespie

https://www.janegillespie.com.au/counsellor.html

 

How do you talk to someone who has just been told they have cancer?

What should you do if you find out that a friend had been diagnosed with cancer?  Some people are really good at this but others feel at a loss to know what to say. Some even say things that are not helpful at all.

I can give you my point of view because I’ve had breast cancer that needed a total mastectomy and chemotherapy, a Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) that required surgery and radiotherapy and many BCCs that have had to be cut out.

As a facilitator of support groups for cancer patients for almost 20 years I’ve heard the same thing over and over again about how some responses from family and friends have felt truly horrible. Here are some things people said to me that I never found helpful. In fact they really upset me!

“Oh well, survival rates are really good today.”  This is irrelevant when someone is in shock, trying to come to terms with the news.

“I’m sure you/he/she will be all right.”  Actually you do NOT know this.

“Aren’t you lucky that you’ve got the best specialist ?”  Even if this is true, the newly diagnosed person will not be feeling lucky about anything just now. After all they’ve just been told they’ve got cancer and NO ONE would ever say this was lucky.

“The best thing you can do is be positive.”  While being positive (I prefer the word optimistic) can help with anxiety along the way there is no evidence that a positive attitude has any bearing on a cancer patient’s prognosis.

“Oh, my aunt/cousin/boss had that cancer and they’re fine now.”  This can feel very dismissive. There are many different grades and stages for every type of cancer.  You don’t know all the details of your friend’s cancer and they probably don’t either at this point.  They might like to hear about people who have survived once they’ve got over the initial shock, but probably not just now.

“This is a journey and you will get to the end of it.” Um, yeah – we will all get to the end of the journey, but you have absolutely no way of knowing how things will end for your friend.

THIS is the truth:

There are some people who are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they just disappear.  This can be fear of hurting their friend or fear of cancer itself.  (“If you can get it, I might too…”).  Many friendships have foundered because of people’s fear.

The ‘disappearing act’ is incredibly hurtful for someone who thought you were their friend and really needs your support. 

What I personally found most helpful was when people understood that I wasn’t expecting them to ‘fix it’ for me.  Some of the things empathetic people said to me that were truly helpful are:

“I don’t know what to say; I feel helpless.  Please tell me if there is anything I can do.”

“Oh, that’s horrible news.  I’m so sorry this has happened to you.”

“You’re looking pretty good today.  How do you actually feel though?”  It’s wonderful what can be done with make-up to present a prettier picture than the reality.  Simple recognition of this is really good.

And when I was undergoing treatment and felt revolting, the best thing anyone could say to me was, “You’re having a really tough time today, aren’t you?  I’m sorry – it just sucks.”

Your friend with cancer knows you can’t fix it for them. All they need is acknowledgment from you that they are going through a tough time and an offer to be there to support them in any way you can. 

Of course no one sets out to be hurtful, but it’s important to think about the impact your words might have on someone confronting a life-threatening disease. If you simply don’t have the words, sending a funny card with a loving message is sometimes enough.

No one is a mind reader, so ask them to be specific if there is something you can do for them.  If they seem to have a hard time thinking of anything, make up your own list of suggestions such as doing the washing and/or ironing for them, mowing the lawn, taking the dog for a walk, taking the kids out for the afternoon, going to the supermarket, cooking some meals or driving them to treatment and ask what would be helpful for them.  This will make it a lot easier for you to be supportive in a useful way and will help you with your feelings of helplessness.

© Jane Gillespie

Older single women at risk

Women over 60 are more likely to attempt and complete suicide compared to younger women. 

Many older women are widowed or divorced and quite often have no family.  To quote from the article above: “Social isolation is a risk factor for suicide, social connectedness is a protective factor. Very simply, you do not die if you are not alone and people do not normally suicide in the presence of others.”

I know of one group of five friends who bought a block of six units together.  They currently rent out the sixth unit with the idea that this one would eventually be available rent free for someone trained in aged care so the owners could continue to live in their own homes as they become frail, while knowing that support was within easy reach.

This is a brilliant idea but there are many older women who don’t own their own home and don’t have enough money to buy anything.  There needs to be more secure housing available for these women where they can form a community of people who will look out for each other.

Housing affordability is an essential part of making life bearable for anyone, as is having true neighbours willing to look out for each other.  

There are some public housing complexes for people of retirement age but not nearly enough of these.  One that I know of has a mix of single level and two-storey townhouses with their own courtyards and common garden areas as well as a community room complete with kitchen and toilet facilities.  This room can be used by residents to put on movie nights or have parties or other celebrations there.  More of this type of accommodation is essential for single women to live a connected life.

Of course, there should be similar housing for older men too as they can often be extremely isolated too.

(c) Jane Gillespie