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Lack Of Support After Surgery

by Karen
(Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

I recently underwent a major surgery which will require a long recovery, and several follow up operations. During my recovery, very few of my closest family members called or even acknowledged the situation. I always believed that my family was very close and loving. I have two young children and needed assistance with them.

I am angry at my family members for not offering emotional support, expressing concern to me about my well-being, or offering assistance with my children. This is the first time that I have ever needed and requested their support. I feel unloved and frightened because I always believed that my family would be there for me if I ever really needed them. This situation has caused me to feel great anger. This may permanently change my feelings for them, as well as my relationship with them.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Karen

Thank you for telling your story on this site. Your story and my response will be here for others to read and benefit from if they choose. You are helping others by reaching out for help in this way.

What you are going through sounds very painful. I can only imagine how it must feel to have believed your family was close and loving and then to find that they are not there for you when you really need them. The anger makes perfect sense. I know you don't like being angry at your family, but you have good reason for it. Fortunately, you don't have to stay angry, because to do so would be harmful to your own health and happiness.

I will offer you some thoughts to consider about your situation, and then some suggestions about what you might do to help yourself feel better and possibly improve the relationships you have with your family members.

One thing that I've been learning lately is that human beings are by nature selfish, and that is not a bad thing. We are designed to be selfish to a certain extent, just because we have to take care of ourselves to survive. Of course, this can be overdone, which is where selfishness gets a bad name. Here's how "healthy selfishness" works: When you acknowledge that it's okay to be selfish and then take really, really good care of yourself, you become healthier and happier and have a lot more to give to others. But because we have learned that it's wrong to be selfish, a lot of us neglect our own needs and then have very little to offer to others. I'm not sure any of this is relevant to your situation, but it came to me to offer these thoughts in my response.

Out of your own "healthy selfishness," have you considered asking--or did you already ask--your family members for what you need? Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking others know what we need and want, and then getting mad at them because they don't. In your situation, it seems like a no-brainer that you would need support during a time like this, I grant you that. But consider that you were not wrong about your family being close and loving. Consider that one or two or more of them will really come through for you if you ask.

When you ask, it needs to be without anger. So, let's talk about how to let go of the anger.

1) First, these anger management techniques in regard to your situation, before talking to anybody in your family about your feelings.
2) Write from your anger and pain, and acknowledge to yourself that your feelings are valid, and you have a right to them.
3) Then write about what you appreciate about some of the people in your family and the relationships you have with them. This will help you to remember why you love them. And, you were not wrong for loving them. This current situation does not make them bad people.
4) Focus on what you love and appreciate about yourself.
5) Finally, decide what you want to be the outcome of all of this. See it in your mind's eye, feel it and believe that it will happen. Then focus once again on the positive aspects of now--your current situation. Practice this regularly, and it will really help.

Now, when you start feeling less angry and more calm and accepting of your family, choose the person you feel the most comfortable with, and say something like, "I could really use your help with (fill in the blank) when you have a chance." And, depending on your comfort level with that person, tell them you're having a hard time with the responsibility for your two children, because of the limitations following your surgery.

I also recommend that you start keeping a regular gratitude journal, particularly after the anger has subsided. That helps with everything!

Feel free to write again, or write in the comment section of this page.

My very best to you, Karen,

Dr. DeFoore

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