People naturally want to help others. To be an effective helper, you have to be a “healthy” helper. As mentioned in the blog on Caregiver Grief, the tendency when helping others is that we put 150% into it. This means that not only is there nothing to give to our family and friends, it also means there is nothing left for us. This leads to major burnout!
Helping others who are bereaved or working through loss brings added stress to the helper. It’s important to be aware of your stress level and to find ways that help you to obliterate or lower the stress. Do you like to exercise? Play sports? Dance? Sing? Paint? Whatever it is, build it into your daily routine to maintain a balance.
Helping is a demanding personal process. Helpers need to be aware of the responses they may have about the person they are helping. You may become frustrated because the mourner doesn’t seem to care or because you feel ineffective in motivating them to do the work. When this happens… you need to own it. You have turned it into your needs… not theirs. It’s a delicate balance. If you feel you are becoming ineffective, trust that it is time to take a step back and allow others to take over for a while. Be sure to debrief with a trusted colleague so that you can obtain some feedback on what you are feeling and to release those feelings.
Helpers/caregivers must often confront their own losses, fears, hopes, and dreams surrounding both life and death. The role of a helper requires energy, focus, and a desire to understand. The emotional involvement adds stress as well. It is always wise and beneficial to seek the counsel of a colleague or therapist to work through the residual effects of being a helper.
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