Last week my husband told me I was going to be old and lonely if I didn’t start making time for friends. Thanks, dear.
But you know what it’s like. You’ve been immersed within your own four walls dealing with medical emergencies and needs of your child around the clock for as long as you can remember. Your life has revolved around therapy visits, doctor appointments and waiting in long lines at the pharmacy.
Finally, the stars align and you have an opportunity to go out.
You pick up your phone.
Who is there to call?
You haven’t heard from your friends in a long time. To be honest, you haven’t had time to reconnect with them or invest in them. Instead you’ve been trying to keep your head above water in your own life.
Sadness and loneliness replace the excitement you had just a minute before. I’m alone.
You’re not alone. This is the experience of many moms of kids with special needs, not just me!
Breaking the cycle of isolation and reconnecting is crucial, but how?
Text Messages. I don’t often have time for long phone conversations, but sending texts with good friends helps me stay connected in almost no time. Nothing is as good as face to face interaction, but short little bits (like asking how their day is or sending a funny picture from yours) allow you to share your lives even in times of busyness. One of my friends has nearly constant medical crisis in their home, she will send me texts while waiting at appointments or in moments of high stress. It keeps me knowing how to pray for her and she knows people are thinking and caring for her. Yesterday a friend sent me this:
Yes. That’s a feeding tube extension from my kiddo in her laundry. I had passed on my son’s clothes to her and somehow a feeding tube extension was left in a pocket, oops! We had a good laugh.
Initiate. Instead of tucking your phone away and losing yourself in loneliness, think of a way to reach out. Go buy a coffee or flowers and drop it off at your friend’s house. She might not have time to visit at the same time your stars aligned, but you’ve opened the door.
Maybe you’re thinking “I’m the one needing the flowers and coffee! I have WAY more on my plate and she’s never reached out to me.” And I say, I get it, I really do. But put away feelings of hurt and instead do something counter-cultural: serve. The parents who I see thriving are those who rarely put themselves in the spotlight, instead they focus on others even though they themselves are in incredibly difficult situations. And as they do so, love is heaped on them!
Online. Sometimes you do need to just be with people who get the challenges of special needs. Maybe you need a place to vent to those who understand the uniqueness of your life or to run things by with people who know what it’s like to be in your shoes. Welcome to the beauty of online groups like Live Better. We have over 1,000 parents that connect daily! I think the beauty of these groups is that we can relieve some of our need for understanding of the joys and frustration of the caregiver’s life and then have more energy to let go of those things for a while.
If you aren’t connected already, find a good online support group that encourages and understands.
Broaden. Nope, not my hips. They’re big enough. I’m talking about horizons. Seriously. Think back to the days before your waking hours were filled with the cares you now have. What gave you energy? What did you love to do? Was it a sport, art or gardening? Find that again.
Maybe it means joining a local book club, taking a class from your local library, or if you can’t get away, working out in your garden and blogging about it. Whatever it is, do it! When our minds and lives broaden, our perspective is refreshed and we have new energy and joy that spreads into our relationships and everyday life. Not only will we have more joy, but we’ll make new friendships with others who have the same interests.
There are many more ways to reconnect but I’m just keeping it to these four today.
I really hope I’m not sitting on my front porch, lonely and sad when I’m older. I hope it’s full of friends who have walked through the ups and downs of life with me as I with them.