Those six simple words meant so much to me even though I had no idea who had written them. They were posted in a chat room and the writer’s screen name held no meaning for me.
For weeks well-intentioned friends and family had been telling me they knew someone who went through exactly what I went through and that I would soon get over it.
“Exactly?” I would think. “They went through the exact same thing?”
I found it hard to believe that anyone could know what I new; that anyone could feel what I felt. But when a complete stranger posted her message to me in a chat room, I knew without a doubt, that she did indeed know exactly how I felt.
Two months prior to reading that message, I had what my doctor called a missed miscarriage, meaning there was no event or physical action that signaled what was happening. My baby’s heart just stopped beating and I didn’t know it until I went for a scheduled ultrasound.
Now I was pregnant again and I was terrified that this baby wouldn’t make it. Friends and family kept telling me to relax. They said it as if it were a choice.
Frustrated by well-meaning people who were focused on reassuring me but failing to listen to me, I went online looking for comfort. And on some pregnancy website I discovered the term PAM: pregnancy after miscarriage, as well as a chat room full of people in the same situation as me – pregnant after a miscarriage. For a few days I lurked on the site; reading the discussions but never posting my own comments. And then finally I sent a message.
“I am so scared,” I said to nobody in particular. A few hours later I saw the response: “I know just how you feel.”
Reading those six simple words, brought me such an incredible sense of relief and a strong sense of belonging. And even though no one in that chat room could actually take away my fears, the simple act of sharing them made me feel so much better.
It makes sense. Sarah Townsend, assistant professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, conducted a study and found interacting with someone who is feeling similarly to you decreases the amount of stress you feel. And this can be key for family caregivers.
Caregiving is often an isolating experience. We are so busy managing our elderly parents, our jobs and our children, that we have little time for socializing and self-care. Besides the workload, the nature of the work involved in caregiving – managing meds, dealing with illness and end of life issues, scheduling doctor’s appointments – can be stressful. And even our most well-intentioned friends, if they have not been a caregiver, can’t fully relate to what we are going through.
This is why it is so helpful to talk to other caregivers who can share your stress. Join a support group in real life or online. We’ve got a great group on Facebook that lifts each other up and listens to each other. Whatever you do, don’t do this alone.
Share the stress.