Accepting that death is near allows you to access services – clinical, practical and emotional – that can help you to make the most of the time ahead with your loved one.
Violet Guide Tessa supported Peter* while he cared for his wife after her health deteriorated suddenly. Here, Tessa shares some practical advice for coming to a place of acceptance, which is very different to succumbing to a sense of defeat.
From our first conversation, it was clear Peter’s heart was broken. His wife has a chronic illness and had been admitted into care after an infection caused a sudden deterioration in her cognitive abilities.
Peter was visiting the facility for several hours each day to assist with his wife’s care. The sorrow of leaving her was heightened by her confusion about where she was and why Peter had to go. He was determined that his wife’s health would be restored to a level where she could return home.
In December 2021, Peter reported that his wife was doing well. Her cognition was improving. She was transferring into a wheelchair, which meant Peter could take her out. Re-engaging in social activities, together with regular exercises from a physio, helped her turn a corner.
A plan was hatched to take Peter’s wife home on Christmas day to stay overnight. On our last call, Peter was nervous and excited about sharing a bed with her again. It was a joy to learn that Peter and his wife have been residing together again since that day.
Peter showed courage, determination, advocacy, and resilience. It was an honour to accompany him on his caring journey.
Why is acceptance important?
No matter what we're facing, accepting the present rather than longing for the past or striving for a different future will give us greater peace, integrity and courage. However, acceptance doesn't come easily in difficult situations where people are dealing with powerful emotions. It’s an enormous thing to ask a human being who’s feeling frustrated, angry, depressed, overwhelmed and exhausted to sit with that. But reaching a kind of equilibrium allows us to recharge and see the situation more clearly. Peter was much more relaxed once he reached a point of acceptance.
Tessa's advice for moving towards a place of acceptance:
- Know that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up
Peter was incredibly resistant to the idea of acceptance at first because he thought it meant giving up. But acceptance is not a rejection of hope. It’s about getting some equilibrium and finding a place of inner strength. This will look different for everybody because each caring experience is unique.
- Practise self-care
You can’t move towards acceptance if you’re always strung out. It’s vital to have a practice that allows you to relax and step away from the situation. For Peter, playing golf allowed him to see himself outside his role as a caregiver. The social contact and support from his friends were also incredible.
- Look after your physical health
To manage and accept a difficult situation you have to be strong mentally, physically, and emotionally. Getting enough sleep and having a routine helps keep your energy stable and reduces the likelihood of your health breaking down.
- Tap into spiritual awareness
Drawing on your faith or spiritual beliefs can be a source of trust and reassurance. If you don’t follow a religion, tap into activities that feed your sense of spiritual connection, such as making things with your hands or spending time in nature.
- Take things moment by moment
It can be easier to accept a situation when we don’t try to do it all at once. Rather than trying to eat up a whole banquet, just take small bites. Bring it down to what you hope for each day, hour, or minute.
- Seek support
Peter was debriefing with me and also saw a counsellor. Getting input from others is very important – you can't do this alone.
If you think the support of a Violet Guide might help you or someone you know, click here to find out more or call 1800 846 538. Violet is a national not-for-profit and all our services are free.
* Name changed to protect privacy.