I often speak of caregivers as being heroic. I refer to them as warriors and say they are fierce and fearless. I believe it. I see evidence of it every day while working with our communities of courageous caregivers at Leeza’s Care Connection, where we provide free support, tips, tools and strategies for family members whose life has been turned upside down due to caring.
But most of us don’t start out with radical resilience. Some days it’s hard to summon the strength to get out of bed, much less put on the Cape and “save the day.” The reality is holding onto yourself while letting go of someone you love is a seemingly impossible task. And yet, to survive caregiving, it’s the highest order of business. We have to find some sanity sanctuaries amidst the chaos. That often comes from others simply understanding what we’re up against. My favorite thing is seeing a caregiver visibly exhale with relief when they find their way to us and they realize that “we get it.” What a powerful thing it is to be seen.
Who are the ones who manage to build a hopeful tomorrow out of the broken pieces of today? I believe they are the ones who are tough and tender. The ones who realize we are stronger because of our vulnerabilities. The ones who know that trying your best is a noble thing, and if your best falls short today, you get another shot at it tomorrow.
No one dreams of being the world’s greatest caregiver, but life changes on the way to happily ever after and if we are to adapt and thrive, we must become proud of the way we pivot in order to adjust to our new normal. It IS a badge of honor to join the ranks of caregivers, but perfectionists don’t stand a chance. I always say there are two “F” words that create all the difference: flexibility and forgiveness.
There’s a famous Hemingway quote which says: The world breaks everyone, and after some are stronger at the broken places.
I don’t totally buy it. I think the world tests everyone, but we really don’t have to break.
I live in Southern California where many of the streets are lined with impossibly tall palm trees. As I look up at them, I see they often bend under the pressure, but I’ve never seen one break. That’s how we have to be in our role as caregivers.
I find it unacceptable that many caregivers are facing a ticking time bomb. Because of compassion fatigue, they can fail and decline so fast that they often die before their diagnosed loved one. Caregivers are quick to blame themselves but rarely give themselves credit. Let’s try to switch those optics this month. As we enter National Caregiver Month, we can offer those who sacrifice not only the respect and admiration they deserve, but also a safe place to fall apart, knowing that they won’t be judged or blamed. We can step up and show up and offer our help by listening and validating their journey. We can give them credit for the extraordinary effort they are offering.
You can hold onto yourself while letting go of someone you love. You can be radically resilience and fiercely optimistic, but you can also give yourself credit for where you are right now. You can put down your sword, pick up a glass of wine and in your best Scarlett O’Hara persona say: “tomorrow’s another day”!
-Leeza Gibbons, FCTA (Former Caregiver Turned Advocate)
Emmy Award winner Leeza Gibbons is one of the most well‐known pop‐culture icons on the air. In addition to her impressive background in the field of entertainment and news media, Leeza is an instrumental advocate for healthcare, wellness, and caregiving. She is also a wife, mother, businesswoman and a New York Times bestselling author. She is also founder of Leeza’s Care Connection, a supportive safe place to cry, a room for worry and a community of care.
This essay was featured in the Oct. 28th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.