I had a chance to interview the author to learn more and gain insight.
1. You experienced a lot of tragedy in a short amount of time. How did you eventually pull yourself up from the weight of your burdens?
My friend Richie who passed a few months after my parents always told me I had talent and should write a book about my experiences. I didn't put a lot of thought into his words at the time, but the idea was always in the back of my mind. Richie was such an emotional support system for me that I felt lost without him. I was lying on my couch one day extremely depressed and I could hear his words echoing in my mind telling me, "your stronger than this, pull yourself together and do what I told you to do...write the book!". The more I thought about what he would want me to do and things he would want me to take away from my experiences, I decided to start writing. It was extremely emotional and the book was written through a veil of tears. My journals always provided a way to express my feelings, but I found writing the book was a way to express all of my pent up anger, sadness, depression that I had held inside. It was a form of therapy for me & I realized the tears were a symbolic way of cleansing my soul as I was writing the book. It was extremely different from writing in my journals during the events. The book was extremely more emotional and mentally exhausting to remove the feelings from my soul.
I also decided to put my time and effort into doing for others. My mom and I would make parachute bracelets, book markers or anything creative when she was dealing with breast cancer. At her appointments, we would give the items to patients waiting at the cancer center. It was a small token to try and make others feel happy for a moment who were dealing with the same situations as my mom. I started making the bracelets again and donated to the gift shop at the cancer center in Columbus, GA. The gift shop would sell the bracelets and the money used for cancer research. They sold out faster than I could make them. It was a way to keep my mind occupied and help others in the process. It gave me a sense of peace instead of feeling depressed.
2. How can dealing with aging parents put a strain on family relationships?
I was on call 24/7 with my parents. It didn't matter what time they called needing me, I was always going to help them as best I could. I had very little time to spend at home and when I was at home I found myself catching up on household chores. I was extremely stressed out and often quiet at home. My husband wasn't receiving the attention he needed and our conversations were very limited. I was able to hold myself together in front of my parents, but often times I would be in tears once I was at home. My husband had no idea how to handle the tears and he didn't know exactly what I was going through being emotionally & physically drained.
The last year caring for my parents were extremely difficult. I was rarely at home and I was called away frequently when I did have a few moments at home. I spent days and nights at the hospital & I was home long enough to shower. My parents were both in the hospital. I tried to split my time between both of them. My anniversary, birthday, holidays were all spent at the hospital. My parents became priority because they needed me. My husband was able to care for himself and I was trying to do what I thought was the best for everyone. My husband knew I was doing what I needed to, but it wasn't easy on him being alone. He was living alone, sleeping alone and I couldn't remedy the situation at that time. My mind was focused on my parents, but my husbands mind was focused on me.
3. How can people use tragedy to inspire others?
In my life, I had a sense of purpose and control with my life when I was making the bracelets for the cancer center. I feel it is very important when things are going crazy in our lives to hold on to a sense of control & purpose. We all need positivity in our lives and anytime we can turn our sadness into a happy feeling when doing for others, it is a great feeling. The possibilities are endless to help others. One great way is to volunteer with an organization. Depression effecting me in a way I wanted to stay home, lying on the couch and watch mindless tv all day. Once I found an outlet for my feelings I had a sense of purpose and being among others really helped me emotionally.
4. How can people help others who are going through personal tragedies?
I knew in the back of my mind things others would say was meant to help, but sometimes the words were very hurtful. A long time friend of my parents told me my mom was better off dead because she was suffering. I burst into tears and that statement still causes tears 3 years later. I would never allow my mom to suffer. I had a team of doctors I trusted to help me make the decisions I needed to make. As long as the doctors had hope, so did I. The day my mom's doctor told my brother and I we needed to sign a DNR, we did just that with tears streaming down our faces. These were the moments no one else knew about. I think its very important to choose your words wisely when someone is dealing with tragedies. The less you say about the situation the better. Spend time with the person, cook for them, help with things they are not able to do at the moment. Take them out of the situation they are dealing with such as to dinner, watch a funny movie with them, anything to change the thoughts in their heads. The last thing they want is to be reminded of what they are dealing with at the moment. Treat them like the great person you know and not as if they are broken.
Elizabeth Jordan is the author of The Darkness of My Shattered Heart, a memoir based on journal and diary entries she kept while caring for her aging parents. An award winning photographer, activist for animal rights, and supporter of cancer causes, she graduated with honors from Troy University with a Bachelor of Science with a focus on psychology and sociology. Jordan lives in Salem, Alabama.
The Darkness of My Shattered Heart is currently available on Amazon and other major online booksellers.