Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Or of being alone when they die.
This is one reason why we have denial of symptoms, refusal to see the doctor, or hypochondria. Some phobias, OCD, superstitions, anxiety and depression are fed by a fear of death. This is why some researchers suggest we tuck away our seniors in nursing homes – to keep death out of sight and out of mind.
I knew a man who had been “stored” in an unfinished basement and left there with a port-a-potty and a bed. Food was brought to him, he had an occasional visit by his son, and he begged those who came by to just talk with him. He was refused.
There was another man whose money was the reason his stepson kept him. This “caretaker” would not allow family members to see his stepfather alone, did not feed him much, and stole his property.
As I visited my dad in a nursing home this past week, a woman who lives there looked at me in fear, “Where can you hide a person? Do you know where? I need to hide.” She went on to say, “They are going to give me a job- do you know what ‘nothing’ is? They told me to do nothing.”
Loneliness can drive a person out of their mind. Of course I do not know if she was lonely, reacting to meds, or struggling with a pre-determined brain disease. Stories like this make us afraid. We wonder if it will one day be us packed away as if we are nothing.
My father’s situation is such that I cannot take him in and keep him safe. Without other family involved he is going to live in that home until his death. Even though he is in a top-notch organization, It hurts me to see how lonely and dejected he gets. I call him regularly, and visit as often as I can from another state. At least he is better off than the man in the basement.
Maybe there is not much I can help him with from far away except to find volunteers to visit him, however there is more I can do for me and another lonely senior. I can visit locally.
Yesterday I signed up as a volunteer visitor. My “assignment” will be named in a few days. I look forward to meeting her. What life she has lived? How can I show respect for their age and experience?
Although I do not consider myself afraid of death, I can be fearful of aging. What if our society were to invest in our seniors instead of packing them away as if they never existed? What richness would be added to our lives if we practiced respect for our elderly? I know I will be comforted by making a new friend and she will be too.
An anti-fear of death and dying potion is to stop denying, invest in a respect for all life, and to become uncomfortable so we can comfort and be comforted.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos