When someone we care about has a serious illness, it is hard to see the forest through the trees. It is much easier to focus on the moments right in front of us than it is to look too far ahead. We can handle what is right in front of us, to the best of our ability. Each moment is so precious. We can only think of what is happening right now because we are on overload trying to understand the interruption of our routine. Is it possible to have time stand still? Can we have some time, please?

We know that life keeps moving. Sometimes it is hard to have to let go of someone we love or allow ourselves to let go of the vision we had for our future, especially when it is changing so fast. We think “Wait a minute. What’s happening? This is all too fast.” It is natural to want to hold on, dig in our heels and not look forward because we literally cannot imagine what it is going to look like. Our normal is anything but normal in these moments.

Serious illness rocks our world. It shakes our foundation. Every aspect of our lives is turned topsy-turvy and things don’t make sense. It can feel very disorienting. There is a new kind of normal with its own mile markers, such as weeks of therapy or months of a new medication. Our goals and how to achieve them are different but there are goals, nonetheless. Instead of planning a vacation out of the country, the goal may be planning a way to get back home from a rehab facility. As time moves on and choices present themselves and decisions are made, eventually we work through the next day and the next. It certainly isn’t normal but there are next steps that we are able to foresee.

Are we making the right decisions? When we are physically and emotionally stressed, it is difficult to make major medical decisions; it’s also difficult to make routine decisions like what to eat or what to wear. How do we know if we are choosing what is best? The decisions can be easier to make if we know what is important in our life. What is important now? What do we value the most now? How can our choices and decisions about a serious illness be in alignment with how we live our lives?

It takes some soul searching to find these answers. Exploring the “what if’s” when we are well and healthy, allowing ourselves to consider the possibilities and how we believe we would want to live our life on our terms, helps to have a frame of reference. If we have thought about what it means to live with a serious illness and the impact it would have on ourselves and our family, then if the situation occurs, we have already thought about some of the decisions we might make in the moment. Preparing our imagination for something unexpected helps us to respond in a situation instead of reacting. For example, if our tire goes flat while driving, we can respond to the situation knowing we have an emergency roadside assistance plan and a spare tire in the trunk versus reacting with fear and anxiety if we don’t have a spare tire or a number to call for help.

Thinking through a serious illness or unexpected life-threatening situation in advance and choosing directives for our healthcare providers and family to follow is an exercise in preparedness. It affords us an opportunity to map out how we do want to live and the general guidelines of what is important to us if we can’t speak for ourselves. It helps our family and doctors to respond more confidently from the perspective of our wants and wishes instead of reacting from fear or panic. Is it going to be okay? We don’t know the answer to that question, but we do have ways to make it as okay as we can imagine.

Email me at [email protected] or call 847-901-3888 to complete your advance directive.

“Readiness is a type of choice, being prepared and accepting of things to come…” – Sara Raasch

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