One of the last times I visited my Grandmother at the Care Center where she lived, staff members wheeled her hall-mate out on a gurney.
“We all come here to die,” my Grandmother said matter-of-factly after her sheet-covered neighbor passed from view.
She was right: residents in her wing of the Care Center weren’t waiting to get better or younger or to move somewhere else. This building was their last stop in this life. She and her neighbors had come there to die.
Words failed me at that moment, as they often do when we come face-to-face with the limits of our existence. I held her hand as her words about death lingered in the space between us. The conversation gradually picked up again and we talked about goings on of various members of our extended family. Invariably Grandma’s information was more up-to-date than mine on cousins and great aunts and family friends. Even as the world she inhabited narrowed, her sharp mind and wit enabled strong connections to a much wider world beyond her tiny room. It was true that she longed for death. But even as the end drew very near, Grandma died like she was living.
In the face of unwelcome diagnoses, serious accidents or other life-threatening events, one of the many challenges is how—and when and with whom—to communicate. Shortly after I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, my brother set up a Caring Bridge site to keep others informed of my condition. While sites like Caring Bridge aren’t for everyone struggling with a serious illness or the aftermath of a life-altering accident, it is the case that grace can be mediated in powerful ways through such sites. As you or others in your life contemplate how to communicate with others in the midst of tragic circumstances, consider the following reasons for using Caring Bridge as a vehicle to let others know how you’re doing:
10. Sharing your story online means you don’t have to start from the beginning in face-to-face conversations.
Sharing bad news with others is exhausting, especially when it’s your bad news. Allowing others to read about your condition first alleviates some of the grief that comes in speaking the words like “I have stage IV cancer” out loud, over and over.
9. You don’t have to worry about whether you’ve informed all the right people of the latest update on your condition.
Concerning yourself with who knows what about your situation takes away precious energy needed to focus on coming to grips with your own condition. If you use Caring Bridge, it will send an alert each time you post an update to those who want one. This permits you to worry less about whether everyone who wants to know has been informed.
8. You can revise what you’ve written before you hit “post.”
Talking about a cancer diagnosis or the aftermath of a serious injury is a serious challenge. Writing updates about how you’re doing allows you to try out different ways of talking about your condition before sharing them with others. Editing before posting can get you closer to saying what it is you’d like others to know about how you’re doing.
7. When others respond to your words in unexpected ways, reading the comments first online gives you the opportunity to consider your response.
It’s not just hard for those of us with the cancer or injury to find the right words; it’s also difficult for those who care about us to find words that might be of comfort to us. Being able to read others’ responses before hearing them face-to-face makes it possible to think through comments you might not have anticipated before having to respond (or not).