The “Go to” person is that special person within a circle that people know they can turn to during serious situations.
Whether it has to do with end of life or not, if you are this person within your family and friend circle, then you are actually dealing with many of the same issues that end of life doulas face. And, it’s trickier to be this person because you are known as the best friend, the daughter, the ‘cousin who knows’, the nurse relative - somehow you are ‘in the know’, as well as you caring deeply about the person in need.
The biggest concern for you, the “go to” person, is boundaries. Because you are part of the family, or another close place in the circle, you may feel that you are often expected to drop everything because you are needed.
I work with many “go to” persons in my mentoring practice. From my experience working with you, I have the following suggestions. Please don’t misunderstand my offering of four simple suggestions as simplifying this issue. The suggestions may appear ‘simple’, but they require a commitment of self-care first which may kick in a whole series of defensive posturing about why you can’t do it
Boundaries around your availability during a crisis may seem like an uncomfortable obstacle, but how many people do you know? What is the possibility of there being several situations during the year that leave you feeling you must stretch to be involved? Be honest about how it affects your own life.
I know I’m hitting a nerve here. The nerve is shared by both the person/family who is going through a hard time and the person who wants to be there more than they actually can be sometimes. The person/family does not want to ask for help usually or is afraid of burdening people, while the “go to” person is genuinely wanting to help but is near breaking under the pressure.
Some thoughtful suggestions:
1) Mindset Adjustment. Because you know you are the go-to person for your circle, understand that each person’s “one crisis” is only “one of” many possible high intensity situations that you will be a part of. You know that when things get rough, you get called by your circle. So if you accept this role, then take care of yourself accordingly. Don’t be surprised when you get another call. Work it into your life if you choose in a systematic way.
2) Planning is your friend. This is their crisis, not yours. If you are going to accept this role and live a high quality life yourself, you need to still take care of yourself. When you get the call or become aware of the situation you may be involved in, after you have responded to the person and have assessed what is to come, look at your own life and realistically decide how much time you will be able to offer for the next three days. Be as present as you can and assess how you will be able to help overall. After these three days, you will have more information to plan for the next three days. Plan like this until you can plan out two weeks at a time.
3) Stating what you will do. You don’t need to go into a long diatribe about how you need to take care of yourself. That would be inappropriate. Right now, you are helping someone you care deeply about through a crisis. What will be very meaningful is to be very specific about what you will do each day or week as you move through this. Be clear and follow through.
4) Support for you. Get your own supports in place. Let your go-to people know you have a situation going on and may need their support. Take extra care of yourself mind/body/spirit/emotion/energy.
School of Accompanying the Dying
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