When You Can’t Take Away Their Pain: Just Being There Is Enough

“Just being there for someone can sometimes bring hope when all else feels hopeless.” ~Dave G. Llewellyn

Parents, if I were to ask you what your worst nightmare is, what would you say?

I daresay it probably falls somewhere under the category of “safety and health,” and the negative version thereof.

Death. Illness. Suffering.

It could largely summed up as “to watch or know my child is suffering,” an extension of that being “… and to not be able to do anything to help or take it away.”

If you’re not a parent, I’m guessing you’re felt this same way about someone else you’ve loved, so a lot of this probably applies to you as well.

Let’s focus for a minute on the illness angle, as that is where I have a personal frame of reference.

Illness is a painful reality for millions of people around the world.

It doesn’t matter whether that illness is something as seemingly innocuous as the common cold, or something far more sinister on the health scale; for a parent to watch their child get sick and suffer, it’s not a situation that anyone wants.

They’re forced to put on a brave face and shove down the feelings that threaten to bubble over at any point: fear, sadness, guilt, anger, helplessness, frustration, and exhaustion, just to name a few. 

Chronic illness has left its mark on my family; spun it’s web, drawn us in.

I may not have been a child when my whole world changed—I was a young adult of twenty-four years old—but my parents had to stand by and watch it all unfold.

I’ll be a child in their eyes—their child—always.

They’ve not only had to witness the initial impact—that devastating moment when they were told to brace themselves, stand strong, for their child was so critically ill that her life was hanging in the balance—but they’ve also had to continue living with those ever-reaching threads for fourteen years.

They’ve watched me overcome adversity and shine, time and time again.

But then the coin flipped over and they had to face the underlying realities of my situation despite my vibrant smile: the ongoing chronic pain, neurological deficits, and life challenges.

When a person is chronically ill, the whole family feels the pain.

Healthy family members are often overworked, physically and mentally, particularly if they have assumed caregiver responsibilities, all of which is compounded by the helplessness they feel when they’re unable to provide relief to the family member in distress.


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