While this sounds obvious, it is worth pondering a bit. We are all driven to fix things and want to fix broken thing in the lives of our loved ones.
However, some things can’t be changed. Patients – who were simply “people” the day before – need to talk through what they’re experiencing. Brain surgery is something that leaves one feeling unique and isolated. Unique because it is not common to have anyone in your immediate circle of friends and family who have had brain surgery. Isolated because the experience puts one’s life into a tailspin. Whether a short and uneventful tailspin or an unending circling of the drain, one’s life is effected forever.
Listening, without trying to solve anything, is a skill we can all work on. Being listened to is appreciated in times of high stress. And then, when you feel that you have listened thoughtfully and deliberately to a point where the patient is repeating – distract by finding something “normal” that you can do together.
The word “Speculate” became a joke in my family. After a shocking diagnosis, we speculated nonstop about what treatment options would be available to me. Once surgery was determined to be my only option, we speculated until the day of surgery about what that experience would be like, what the outcome would be, and anything we could think of. Speculation was the word that we would throw out to each other when it was time to take a break and live or talk about something else. The combination of speculative talk and continuing to live life helped me get through a challenging period in my life.