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 the go-to 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 as 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 CareDoula School of Accompanying the Dying. From my experience working with hundreds of people over the years, I have the following 4 tips. 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.
My 4 Tips:
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 winded monologue about how you need to take care of yourself. That would be inappropriate. You need to commit to yourself. 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. Make sure your family, responsibilities, animals, etc don't fall by the wayside as you help another through something that may take days/weeks/months. Take extra care of yourself in every way--mind/body/spirit/emotion/energy. The most important things right now for you are ways to unwind and rest and soothe yourself.
It is a great service you are providing to your loved ones; you are their end-of-life doula. They would be very sad and may even feel guilty if you deteriorate as you support them. So caring for you is caring for them. And it will keep you able to do what you so passionately are inspired to do over your lifetime.