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What Doesn't Kill You Opens Your Heart

These past six months have been challenging for me. I’ve navigated the difficult journey of moving my parents from their home into an assisted living facility where they will have a much better quality of life. My father has advanced Alzheimer’s and my mother is in the early (but quickly progressing) stages of the disease so their need for assistance was pressing. Along with my brother, I’ve had to downsize their possessions, sell their condo, and move them. Essentially, we’ve had to take over every area of their lives. I’ve spent countless hours trying to ensure that their needs are taken care of and that their lives are set up to enable them to experience as much joy as possible given their rapidly declining health.

Looking back over this time, I can see that despite numerous stressful moments this experience has transformed me in beautiful ways. In negotiating numerous logistical and emotional challenges I’ve stepped into my power more deeply still. Good things have come about as a result of advocating for my parents in a very focussed, diligent, and intentional way. Yet it is not so much greater strength that this experience has fostered, but more open-heartedness. I feel as though navigating this journey has invited me to be softer, kinder, and more compassionate to my parents, to myself, and to the suffering of the world.

Additionally, although this challenging situation has invited me to take action whenever possible, it has also taught me to surrender where action will not effect change. Surrendering helps me let go of worrying about how this journey will play out. I’ve ceased to try to control the uncontrollable. I no longer wish things were different. I have no desire to feel bitter or sad at having two parents simultaneously suffering from Alzheimer’s. Instead, I can focus on being present to my parents and to myself. I can show up with an open, accepting heart and take action where needed yet surrender to the experience of each moment. I feel fortunate to have had my heart opened in this way. It helps me face the suffering of the world with gentle compassion, knowing that we all carry something heavy on our hearts.

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