Becoming a Caregiver

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Dear Jane,
My husband has recently been diagnosed with cancer and we are all in shock. What do you suggest to help our family–our adult children, their spouses, the grandchildren, and me–make the most of this difficult time and to help him to feel as positive and upbeat as possible?

First of all, every person facing life-threatening illness does so in his/her own time and way, and every family is different in the way it copes with illness and loss.

When my dear friend Kathleen died recently after a four-year battle with breast cancer, I reflected on how much I often tried to control her illness as well as her thoughts and feelings. I had good intentions but, possibly like you, I felt helpless in the face of her suffering.

Kathleen sometimes had to rebel against my good intentions. Just when I wanted her to talk about logistics, she would start fantasizing about a vacation. At other times, when I tried to cheer lead her, she wanted to share her grief about not seeing her teenaged son graduate from high school and college.

Kathleen’s feelings and needs changed quickly and often, as did mine. I learned that being a caregiver meant taking better care of myself or I became less than helpful. I learned to ask other people for help, not just for her but for my own emotional needs. I learned to honor my irritability, anger, frustration, and moodiness. I learned to respect Kathleen’s unique coping strategies. I learned that I often couldn’t elevate her mood or infuse her with courage; I could only be present and make it safe for her to express exactly what she felt and needed. I tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to let that be enough.

I hope that my lessons with Kathleen are useful for you and your loved ones. I wish you all manner of grace on this journey.

Jane’s Coaching and Training

For over 20 years, Jane Straus has coached individuals and groups, facilitated organizational retreats, conducted training programs, and presented keynotes for corporations and nonprofits nationwide.

To get exceptional results from coaching and training, you need someone who knows how to assess blind spots as well as enhance strengths. Jane’s coaching helps individuals and groups maximize their potential and improve their productivity and work relationships. Jane works to ensure that each client receives the wisdom, skills, and support he/she needs to succeed and often co-facilitates with industry-specific leaders who have chosen to mentor the next generation.

Contact Jane directly at to discuss your coaching or training needs or visit for more information and testimonials.

Jane Straus is also the author of the popular self-help book, Enough Is Enough! See her TV interviews, read her articles, and order the book by visiting

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