Lois Hjelmstad

Lois Hjelmstad.com

Compassion and courage for the times you need it.

A couple of weeks ago, on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer I read a guest post about suffering by Deborah Woodbury with a great deal of interest.

In her article and in the comments following, the inability of breast cancer patients (and others) to reach out or accept whatever support is offered seems to be a common theme. Why do we, as women, do this?

We want to do everything ourselves. We are trained to keep our pain and vulnerability and needs unspoken. Sometimes we even try not to feel them.

That natural inclination to shoulder our own burdens plays into our reluctance to accept help. We also fall into “I’m not worthy” and “I haven’t suffered enough.” In my support group, I always felt a bit inferior because I did not have the kind of cancer that chemotherapy would have helped. These issues bedevil many of us.

But I wonder if there is yet another possibility.

Maybe it isn’t that we don’t want or need help at a given juncture.

Maybe it’s rather that we need to draw into ourselves for a time in order to process the magnitude of what has happened. In my case, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to connect with others. It was that I needed to connect with myself first.

I needed space and time to process.

I needed to write my poems.

Just a thought.

6 Responses

  1. One of the great lessons that cancer has taught me is how to accept help from others. Being a single parent of three children, (the youngest with autism) I was always reluctant to accept help from family and friends. With cancer, I had no choice. I learned that accepting help does not make me a burden on others and that helping is as much a gift to the GIVER as to the receiver.
    Cancer Warrior

  2. As independent, self reliant women, the question of asking for help,dealing with offers of help, bedevils. We’re supposed to be strong and therefore not need help,but not to be too proud or cocky not to accept help. Thanks for showing a way o manage the divide.

  3. It was SO hard for me to accept help because that meant I wasn’t able to do it myself. (And NOBODY is going to tell me I can’t do it myself.) Now I look back and know that it was those that helped me that made it so much easier on me and my family

  4. I love how you state that you needed to connect with yourself first before reaching out to others. How true that is! And poetry acted as your means of expressing that self-acceptance, so you could accept the support of others. I, too, like Cancer Warrior’s comment that accepting help is a blessing, a gift to the giver. XX

  5. Lois:

    I love your thoughts on my guest post about the difficulty of accepting the lifeline of support. As I wrote that post, I was amazed by the opportunities for support that I let slide by before I was ready to accept help. As an introvert, I’m constantly connecting with myself to process my feelings. If anything, I needed to be pulled out and into the circle of survivorship. It just goes to prove that we are all different, but in the end, we all need each other.

    Survival > Existence,


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