Long-distance Watching (Part 1)

Perhaps we have always lived far away from our Loved One, and we want to know if we are actually a Watcher.

Perhaps we used to co-reside with them, and due to circumstances or choice we have recently moved a distance away and are struggling.

long distance watching part one www.calledtowatch.com #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching #prayer

Or maybe we’d actually prefer to live elsewhere and wonder what that will look like in terms of Watching.

Possibly the opportunity has arisen for us to move closer and we’re not sure whether this will be a wise move.

These questions are difficult and important.

How do we Watch when we live far away from our Loved One? Is it possible?

This is Part 1 of a two-part series focused on “Watching from a distance”.

The reality is…

First of all we need to ask ourselves whether it is possible to Watch from a distance. Is Watching limited by geography?

Our definition of Watching is centred around relationship. We are individuals who love someone who is chronically suffering. To Watch is to Love.

Is love limited by distance?

A resounding ‘no!’ should be our first response. And yet, distance does shape, mold and inflame love.

It is true that at times ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ and yet I suspect that in a lot of situations it actually does the opposite.

It is difficult to maintain a close relationship with friends we don’t see regularly. That’s why our social circles change as we move through life from school to study to work to family and everything in between.

Who are our friends? They are our co-workers, our fellow students, the members of our local daycare.

When distance imposes a barrier between us and our Loved One we need to ask ourselves some serious questions. After all, in this unusual circumstance, we are actually being given the choice to Watch.

Is it logistically possible for us to be a close part of their life?

Do they have other Watchers, people closer to them who love and care for them?

Is it appropriate for us to ‘step back’?

Of course in many situations these questions will be inappropriate. Often our Loved One is part of our family, or a very close friend – and we will continue to Watch. We must do so, and would not have it any other way.

And yet Watching remotely has its own difficulties.

As a remote Watcher we are unable to provide physical help.

Where perhaps once we could clean their kitchen, make a cup of tea, give them a lift or cook a meal – we now find our hands tied.

Parameters beyond our immediate control prevent us from doing what we once could.

For those of us who express love primarily through actions or ‘doing’, this is extremely frustrating.

And yet it is not merely the gift of service which is denied us. So is physical affection. We can no longer hug, kiss, clap on the back or sit in silence with our Loved One. Tears cannot mingle over the phone.

This can be excruciating.

If we enjoy giving physical gifts of food or tiny luxuries this too is more difficult. Due to the distance between us we may not be able to transport perishables, or otherwise express our solidarity.

What should we do?

We need to accept the inevitable.

Watching from a distance changes the paradigm. Things will be different.

We cannot physically help our Loved One anymore. Yet we can still be a blessing.

We can be a sensitive breath of fresh air. You see our situation has changed, but theirs has not and perhaps never will. Our knowledge of the world and our circle of experience and contacts has widened – even if we have only moved half an hour away.

Our wealth of stories has increased, we have collected new jokes and new outlooks. As we return to our old lives – be it by a phone call or a visit – we take some of our new life with us.

This can be refreshing. It can widen our Loved One’s perspectives, provide a gentle distraction, even help them live a life they cannot vicariously as they hear about ours.

This is not to say our Loved One is a project, or someone to be ‘cultured’.

We have simply become the means of something that is natural and incidental.

The interactions of different life daily builds up experiences. Let us be aware of this and the gentle relief it can bring.

We can also refresh and relieve the close Watchers.

This as well, required sensitivity, and is more incidental than forced.

Perhaps sickness has narrowed and depressed their outlook. Perhaps not.

Either way, let us pray God will use our presence to bless them as well.

Thus, we may not be able to physically impact their lives on a regular basis – but we can visit. This physical act of travelling – as tiring as it may be, is a gift to them.

It is difficult to arrange visits. Schedules must be wrangled, money spent, energy summoned – sometimes it might not even seem worth it when we weigh up the travel time vs. time with our Loved One.

Yet when we choose to do so, I think we bless not only our Loved One but also ourselves.

After all, nothing trumps a solid hug.

//Do you Watch from a distance? What do you find hardest about it?

Share your thoughts below, and come again next week for Part 2, which looks at difficulties such as:

Watching from a distance makes it hard to care
Watching from a distance makes us feel left out
Watching from a distance makes it hard to understand

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

2 thoughts on “Long-distance Watching (Part 1)”

  1. Distance certainly changes what we are able to do and requires us to widen our thoughts to think of other ways we can show our love and care ,especially if the distance is great … You re right … acceptance is the key often …but it can take some time to get to that place !

    1. It can definitely take some time! And I think as the business of our lives flows and ebbs, what it looks like to Watch from a distance will change to, going back and forth from easy to hard. That’s why I’m so thankful God can be present when we are not 🙂

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.