Chronic illness can foster a sense of isolation. While
everyone around us continues life as usual, we are left grappling with major
disruptive changes. It's as if we were suddenly attacked by a large animal
while everyone else eases down the road unharmed. Why are we the ones the
beast picked out?
often increases because we don’t know how to cope with the accumulating
stress that surrounds our illness. We may face strange and uncomfortable
tests that could result in disturbing news.
A scary symptom might suddenly
appear, and doctors and other health personnel may seem remote and uncaring.
Connections with friends and family can be disrupted by changes in our
to make us more self-focused. It can increase our desire to retreat from the
world, as if we need to gather our wagons in a circle for personal safety.
If we have a tendency to feel alone, having an illness may cause us to
disconnect even more from others. On the other hand, if we look primarily to
others to be our safety net, we will find that no one can truly provide our
security. Sometimes we retreat because of the painful gap between the caring
and support we hoped to receive from family or friends, and what they are
able to give to us.
though, there is a positive side. Our illness can shake us up enough to
become more sensitive to healing connections we would formerly have been too
busy to notice. This was the case with my friend Kate’s sister Gabriel,
whose illness opened her to connecting with ten of Kate's friends who lived
three thousand miles away. In Kate’s words:
found out that my sister Gabriel was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted
to help her in any way I could. As she lives in Vermont and I live in New
Mexico, there was the problem of distance. Also, I am a stay-at-home mom
with three kids, which made it even more challenging to go help her in
I had recently been taught Reiki, a Japanese system
that can allow a person to transmit healing energy from a distance to
others. In some ways it is much like prayer. An idea came to me to ask my
friends to send Reiki to my sister, and to place healing thoughts into small
stones that we would send her as well.
I took a small grapevine basket that looked like a
bird’s nest, placed some special stones from my own collection in it, and
passed it around to my friends. When I got the basket back, it was filled
with more colorful stones and little messages of well-wishes. As I mailed it
to my sister, I felt strongly the help and caring the basket contained.
She loved receiving this package and was amazed that
there were ten strangers who took time to do something so special for her.
Gabriel told me that she kept the nest with the stones near, and would often
hold one or rest with them at her side.
When my sister had to go through some very scary
tests, she kept telling herself, “I’m getting Reiki, I’m getting Reiki.”
Just knowing people were sending her healing energy and good thoughts gave
her support and comfort to endure it all."