The Waiting Room
Occasionally the door would open with a nurse, volunteer, or a fellow waiting room family member coming in or out. Quiet conversation could be heard throughout the waiting room, as I continued to sit in my new ‘home away from home.’
I would watch a little T.V. or watch the hands of the clock continuously chase each other around and around. “Is this room getting smaller?” I asked myself. I would pray, “God please give me strength because I don’t know how much longer I can possibly sit here.”
Some days I just wanted to leave, I needed a break, a walk, anything to get some fresh air. I just wanted to be anywhere but within the confines of that waiting room.
Caregiver’s Advice to Professionals and Military Families
The “waiting game” is something most military families are accustomed to. We become numb to the geographical separations we endure, and learn to hope for the best while expecting the worst. Or so we think, or so I thought…
I am not sure I could have ever prepared myself for what would prove to be the wait of my life–the unknown of whether or not I would get to see my service member today or if he would even make it to a new day. I was trapped in a waiting game.
I can distinctly recall the myriad of conflicting feelings I felt as I sat day-in and day-out, trying my best to patiently wait for the next time I would be allowed to go back and see my service member. Watching others pass through the halls, the changing shifts of doctors, nurses and volunteer workers. I remember thinking on more then one occasion, “I just want to leave”. I had no real plans of truly going anywhere, I just wanted to be anywhere but right there in that moment. Of course those feelings were always quickly replaced by feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. “How selfish”, I remember thinking. How dare I wish to be anywhere else other than there waiting on my Soldier?
No one ever told me these feelings were okay. No one ever told me that I could leave, take “a breather”, a break from it all, and not have to feel guilty. Sure, people would say, “you have to take care of yourself,” but what did that even mean? So there I would sit, embarrassed, scared and extremely anxious as I continued to wait. Watching the clock until the minutes turned to hours and the hours into days.
It seems as if these types of feelings are seldom spoke of, and I cannot help but to reflect upon my own personal experience and wonder why as professionals we are not more aware of how it is not just the service member who suffers. Expectations of recovery should at least in some ways revolve around the wounded family as a whole. Just as the wounded service member begins immediate treatment, perhaps the family as a whole could benefit from some type of immediate, hands on (i.e., outside of online or web-based groups or forums) family therapy, or support group, or at the very least information on where to find such support.
I was fortunate enough to have an amazing support group. I had family with me at all times, and I became very close to another wounded family who arrived only a few weeks before us. The waiting room volunteer’s whom we were blessed with were amazing, and the doctors and nurses who worked with my husband everyday were more than willing to listen to any concerns I had. However my worry is that not every family will be this fortunate, not every family will have such a strong support group. As professionals, I think it is our duty to educate ourselves on how to help wounded service members in the most holistic way possible, beginning with the family members who wait.
Missed Part I of the series? Go to ‘The Phone Call’ for read the first installment of the series.
The caregiving mini-series, 444 Days in the First Year, was written by Tabitha McCoy. Tabitha is a contributor to the MFLN–Military Caregiving concentration team and is a former military caregiver to her husband, SGT Steve McCoy. In this mini-series, Tabitha shares her personal story of caregiving, loss, grieving, and transitioning, as well as insight and advice for both professionals and family caregivers as she recounts the 444 days following her husband’s injuries and then unfortunately his death in June 2008.
Tabitha holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and is currently a graduate student at Valdosta State University where she is pursuing her Masters degree in Marriage and Family.