Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quality of Life


For so many years I have heard arguments on what Quality of Life means.  The arguments and debates are often focused on the socially-considered "less that perfect" abilities of the elderly and disabled.  Those abilities are not limited to the ability to reason, think, make decisions, ambulate, speak, care for ones-self, work, earn a living, pay taxes ... And do, what most of us call, LIVE.

But my life experience has shown me sides to the quality of life discussion that really are often overlooked!  I see, everyday, standing on street corners, and sleeping in doorways, people with bodies that function the way they ought to, for the most part, medically speaking.  I see people that do not take care of the healthy bodies that they were given, and are now amongst the severely ill, and disabled.  I see those that have made decisions to drink, use drugs, hurt themselves, hate them selves.  They are angry at the world.  They are angry at their family and friends.  They feel that someone else ought to have done something different to make their life better.  They take no responsibility for who and where they are in their life. There is such a sense of self loathing in these behaviors, that saddens me.  This how low quality of life certainly is in my opinion, self-inflicted!  Now, I will accept that there are occasions when one might argue that the initial incident that began the down hill slide may have been the fault of another, but at some point, one must stop, and take control and responsibility for what happens after that.

I have worked with children, with bodies and minds bent and twisted with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Brain Tumors, developmental delays, and other illnesses and conditions.  Some have argued that these children have poor quality of life!  But I say NAY!  The children that I have worked with have had happy dispositions, they have not felt the victim of anything that God or the universe have given them.  They have drive and determination to be happy, and productive.  They have families and friends that surround them in a cocoon of love and acceptance.  And they thrive, despite what the world at large would consider their disability.  They give love so unconditional, and so freely.  This is to me is a glowing and desirable quality of life.

Separation from the nucleus of family, in my belief, is where quality of life is altered toward the negative, and diminished.  Whether that separation is literal, or emotional, makes no difference, the process of loss begins.  Some years ago, a lovely young woman made some detrimental choices about how she would live her life, choosing a life of drugs, and mostly estranging herself from a family that is open and loving.  I never had the chance to meet her, and some how felt a little bit of loss for that connection.  She is now free of that reduced quality of life that she chose, and rests forever, as her family begins a new part of their grieving process.  In my early adult life, someone made decisions of low quality, that caused a great deal of pain, grief and sadness that it will last in myself and my children for the balance of our lives. I think we have all witnessed some such almost purposeful decision that alters a quality of life.

The sadness and separation, in loosing a loved one their choices is heart wrenching, and causes the grieving process to begin and last for so many years, and seems to begin again when (or if) the situation finally ends in death.  In some ways the separation is almost more tragic than the death, because we often see it as a very slow death, that starts with the emotional heart, and slowly eats away at the very life and existence of that person, and often those who might long to be closest.  The death brings about some closure that the separation never truly allows.

Everyone will go through the grief process, in their own time, and in their own way.  However the process order is generally recognized in something like this: SHOCK & DENIAL; PAIN & GUILT; ANGER & BARGAINING; "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION & LONELINESS; THE UPWARD TURN; RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH; ACCEPTANCE & HOPE.  There are many resources available on line, and in your local community that can bring you the comfort that is most specific to your needs and situation.  Please, seek them out, and understand your own personal grief process.

This evolution looks somewhat different for everyone.  Grief is a very personal and and private ritual, that each human being, even dealing with the same situation, will move through differently.  It is important that if you are beginning to feel "stuck" in any of the steps listed above, that you consider professional or lay counseling, so that you do not end up repeating the cycle of inflicting a low quality of life on those around you.

It is my desire to encourage you to be whole and healthy, in your body, mind and spirit, so that you and those around you can, to the best of your ability,
Live Well!
Love, Suzi~Q