Hospitals and Helplessness

Jo Griffin by Jo Griffin Additional Needs

Jo Griffin

Jo Griffin

Joanna Griffin is mum to three boys including her eldest who has special needs. She is also a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Founder of ww...

Hospitals are not generally happy places.

Yet they are often a part of our life as parent carers.

I had forgotten or lost awareness of what an impact that can have on us in terms of our wellbeing until recently I took my youngest, non-disabled son to our local hospital for a routine appointment.

Seeing his worry and curiosity at certain things, such as the man walking along with a bandage across his face; another person wearing his hospital gown with a drip attached to him, made me realise how shocking the place can be when it’s seen through fresh eyes.

I had somehow got used to these scenes, but my son illustrated how on some level they are concerning, upsetting and make us confront the frailty of human existence.

Attending hospital appointments can make us feel helpless, de-skilled and reliant on others.

Sometimes it feels as if the professionals have the answers, or not, and we depend on them for referrals or solutions to problems that are beyond our immediate knowledge and capacity.

The frustrations in the NHS are well documented and problems of bureaucracy and inefficiency can add to a sense of powerlessness and lack of control.

The additional challenges of finding parking, late appointments or overstressed and sometimes insensitive staff can be experienced as re-traumatising.  We are no longer the architect of our own destiny.

It got me thinking that parent carers are often at the coalface of life and death, disability and illness.

This is a difficult place to live your life.

It has consequences, such as hyper-vigilance to other things going wrong in life or health worries, as we know how easily life can change forever.

It means we have in our awareness, either consciously or unconsciously, the knowledge that we are mortal, our bodies fail us, there are illnesses from which people we love never recover.

Our eyes are opened to a world that is normally hidden from view.

So what can we do?

Acknowledging this difficult reality is key.  Recognising that sometimes a trip to a ‘routine’ hospital appointment may leave us feeling anxious, vulnerable or in tears.

It may be such a part of our everyday world that we don’t always realise, putting it to one side and just getting on with the jobs that need doing.

But it’s important to stop and acknowledge if we need something nurturing afterward, such as a coffee with a friend or a distraction to take our minds off the experience.

There is also the possibility that it makes us appreciate things more fully.

The precious little gifts that life can throw our way – a rainbow, spring flowers, kindness from a stranger or a helpful meeting with a professional who has really ‘got’ our child.

It may make us more grateful for the days that don’t involve illness or a visit to the doctors.

A smile from our child or a hug that was previously not there can feel like pure gold.

Relish these moments, soak them up and re-charge.

You are strong, you are resilient, but most of all, you are human.


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