As we get more involved with caregiving, our pre-caregiver friends seem to drift away.
Friends we socialized with at monthly outings, don’t come around as often. They don’t invite us to lunch. They don’t even call about visiting, anymore. It seems we’ve grown apart.
Wasn’t it Ecclesiastes who advised? To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose…
How do caregivers find new friends?
In Support Groups
I never thought I’d attend a support group. But when I needed to learn to cope better with my father’s behaviors as he tried to live with dementia, I marched straight into those weekly meetings. I even attended meetings online! While my colleagues and long-time friends fell into the background, I felt comforted by strangers; some, who I would never meet in person.
While I served as my father’s caregiver, new connections with caregivers grew into family.
This was especially comforting, because who else can understand what’s involved in caregiving besides another caregiver?
Even the online (virtual) connections through caregiver forums helped create a feeling of community. Today, social media connections like Facebook and Google+ grow into strong connections that provide mutual support.
At a Caregiver Retreat
If you’re fortunate to go on a caregiver retreat, then you are one of the lucky caregivers who will form long-term relationships with other caregivers. These retreats are important for a much-needed caregiver respite. And they’re crucial to ensuring you re-energize in order to continue providing optimal care. Plus, connecting with fellow caregivers in a FUN yet relaxing atmosphere where you can explore your challenges and find creative solutions is an ideal way to build relationships with other caregivers. Most retreats are either one night or two — brief enough to get away after making arrangements.
What about making friends after caregiving?
There’s always that fear of loneliness after caregiving.
Rest assured, in many cases, caregivers become friends for life.
But what about getting away from caregiving and trying to return to a more normal life?
My experience has been that some of my friends and colleagues who went by the wayside while I was in the throes of caregiving, are now returning to my life. A lot of this is due to social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.
Advantage of growing older — knowing yourself more.
One advantage of growing older is getting to know ourselves better. The older I get the more comfortable I feel with myself and the unique gifts I bring to this world. Each of us should feel the same and be more selective in what we choose to do in our lives and with whom.
Sadly, there is never enough time. I feel I spread what little time I have, too thinly among those I care about.
The truth is, the older we grow — usually after age fifty — we realize there are fewer years ahead of us than behind us, we feel a sense of urgency and have greater confidence in choosing whom we spend our time with.
We discover people who come into our lives who align so well with our own unique qualities, that we wonder why we’re wasting time with those who criticize us (teasingly), yet leave us to question privately whether we’re normal — whatever that is.
Take a class. Volunteer.
Help raise funds for a cause you believe in. Attend events in your community. Take courses at your local community college. The people you meet will bring new meaning to your life.
All of these are great ways to grow new friends. We meet new people. We see how they work and overcome obstacles. We celebrate together and grow new relationships.
And remember, the words of Ecclesiastes: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose…
Not all friendships will last… while others will endure through the years.
Although it will be hard in some cases to let go of friends, there will be other friends who keep the thread of our lives intact. My old college buddies who I don’t see as often as I’d like can pick up a conversation right where we left off… five years ago! The scary truth is admitting how long we’ve known each other — in some cases, since the late 1970’s. Am I THAT OLD?
This topic was inspired by Leslie Mann’s article, in a special to the Tribune papers: How to make new friends when you’re an adult.