National Suicide Awareness Week is in September. So, let me tell you a story. It’s not a happy story but it could very well have a happy ending.
Over the past several months I have heard too many elderly people say something like, “I might as well be dead. I’m not much good anymore. I can’t hear. I’m a bother to my family. I remember how annoyed I got at my mom/dad/grampa when I had to repeat for them. I don’t want to be annoying like that.” How sad does a person have to be to make that comment? And, where does that attitude come from? Does it come from how they are treated? Or, how they perceive they are being treated? Or, from guilt they haven’t quite gotten over (or forgiven themselves)? How do we even talk to our loved ones about this?
Let’s start by asking them to repeat something for us. Tell us a story. Tell us about their favorite Labor Day celebration. Then, listen. Really listen to the story. Ask for details. Make the story alive. Laugh with them. If appropriate, cry with them. Remember with them back to the days when they were not old and “a bother” to the family. Keep in mind that you too will one day get older. How do you want to be seen, treated, remembered?
I think about my Grampa Graves. He served in WWII. He was a strong man who had left his young family at home to serve his country. He was tough. He defied (with actions that made his wishes crystal clear) the surgeons who wanted to take his feet from him after they cut his rotten boots off. He kept his feet. We were going to write a book. He had stories to tell. But I didn’t have the time to listen and ask for details and write them down. I lost my Grampa over 25 years ago. How I wish I had taken the time!
During this month of awareness, be aware of how your loved ones feel. Especially, spend some time with grandparents, parents, friends from school who might not have a lot of interaction otherwise. Help each family member feel worthwhile. Everyone needs a purpose.
If you need specific tools to help you communicate, don’t hesitate to call us at (812) 303-4300. I’d be happy to talk to you about listening.