Reflections on 5 Years of Caregiving from Heather Zoccali

 

Heather Zoccali became a caregiver to her son, Connor, after he was struck by a hit and run driver while walking to school on March 10th, 2015. Heather continues to grow and learn life as a caregiver of a T12 paraplegic, and with the help of No Barriers new caregiver programs, can build community and a broader sense of self.


“At this point in my life, I think it is safe to say I have become an expert in emotional sustainability.

Surprisingly not a childhood dream but a reality in order to survive, occasionally thrive, after multiple traumas, which have seemingly followed me into adulthood.

  • “How do you stay so strong?”
  • “You handle all this with such grace”
  • “You wear it so well”

Comments most often heard and accepted with an open heart all the while recognizing how incredibly painful and heartbreaking it is to practice and live an emotional sustainable life; breakdowns in the shower, heartbreak coupled with heart mending, grounding myself to help those I love while they struggle to deal with the havoc thrust upon our family unit;

I fall short as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, the forgiveness of others and the hardest; the forgiveness of self.

As we mark five years since Connor’s pedestrian vs vehicle accident, leaving him a T-12 paraplegic, and a month out from my father’s death by suicide, navigating long-distance caregiving for my mother whilst making plans to move her to us, healing old wounds and recognizing all my past life, and maneuvering ordinary daily life, and relationships; combined together can be utterly breath-taking at times.

I have sat with myself a lot recently to try and understand how I really am. I do not know why or how I can look at all the devastation I have experienced and not see what we lost in the fires, but what we are building and finding in the ashes. I do believe it is a choice. I choose to see the world and my experience within it. It is not always easy but once made and I try to stay the course.

I fall short again, as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, the forgiveness of others and the hardest; the forgiveness of self.

Looking at my life, now in the present, I know how truly lucky I am. Out of the ashes we have built a beautiful perfectly imperfect, supportive family; beyond what I thought was possible. When I look at the friendships and community which surrounds us with support; it is often staggering to observe. It is not easy being my friend I do recognize this. Dealing with trauma after trauma is exhausting and I am an admitted flake. I hope one day to return all the love I get and have to trust this is known and understood.

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Through tragedy, I found a passion that led me to a new career where I get to work for an organization I believe in with people who want to make the world a better place. They are now pulled into my vortex of controlled chaos and show above and beyond support for their co-worker/friend.

I fall short again, as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, the forgiveness of others and the hardest; the forgiveness of self.

I learned at a young age, after my father’s stroke and complicated relationships with family, one cannot control the world and what it throws at you; my faeries and fellow Martians helped me to find the magic in the world as a child and I have fiercely latched onto and protected the magic I find because otherwise, life would have crushed me, and I choose to not be crushed by life but instead do the work of constant rebuilding of self.

I fall short again, as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, the forgiveness of others and the hardest; the forgiveness of self.

In marking of today I ask for forgiveness for falling short as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, the forgiveness of others and the hardest; the forgiveness of self. I will continue to fall short, but I know I have a staggering amount of support and gracious people in my life that allow me to fall, slump, and sometimes belly-flop while giving allowance and assistance to grow, mend, and rise to a fluid plane.

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Instead of looking at what we lost in the fire, look at what we are building and finding in the ashes, choosing to find magic and protect it, the constant rebuilding of self, heartbreak, and heart mending and falling short then forgiveness; this is my emotional sustainability life.”

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This heartfelt reflection was originally shared on March 10, 2020 in our dedicated Facebook group for caregivers, found here. We’d love for you to join our online community for caregivers!

Other excellent resources for caregivers:

April 16, 2020
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