support, crisis, friends, family, loneliness, grief, Dr Dale Peterson

How Broad is Your Base?

How Broad is Your Base?

© 2010 Dr. Dale Peterson &

From time to time I hear that a politician is reaching out to his base. The base is made up of a core group of individuals who support his views and work to see that he is elected to office. The base is not the only source of support, but it a nucleus around which a successful campaign may be built.

Just as it is important for a politician to build a broad base of support to ensure electability, it is important for each of us to develop a broad base of support to help see us through challenging times. Our base may not be the only source of support and comfort in trying times, but it is key to successfully surviving stressful situations.

An elderly woman came to see me recently. Her husband of sixty-two years had died suddenly two months before. She told me that, with the exception of the six weeks he spent in basic training in 1952, they had been together constantly since being married. They taught in the same school, attended the same functions, and shared everything in common. They had only one car, because they always went everywhere together.

She told me that she had no children. Her entire adult life had revolved around her husband, and now he was gone. She was lonely, so very, very, lonely.

It is impossible to comprehend the pain of the vacuum that is created when the love of oneís life is absent for the first time in sixty-two years. Certainly, she will never feel complete again. Her loneliness is compounded by the fact that the home she and her husband shared is in an isolated spot from which she rarely hears a vehicle on a highway. She and her husband put the house up for sale a year ago, but she has had no offers.

I did what little I could to ease her grief. I listened. I assured her that her loneliness was a predictable result of her loss and that the grief she felt was normal and expected. I encouraged her to reach out to others as much as possible, but her ability to do so is limited because she has a narrow base of support.

I encourage you to develop a broad base. Donít neglect family relationships, since these are often the strongest lines of support in times of crisis. Participate in organizations that allow you to build friendships with people in different walks of life. Interact with people of various ages and seek out friends who are at a different stage of life than you are. I have known several individuals who outlived friends and family members of their own generation. Those who had long-standing friendships with younger individuals were much happier and less lonely than those who had socialized exclusively with people their own age.

I encourage couples to develop individual interests. In the event of the death of a spouse the relationships built as an individual will remain strong; those that see you as one member of a couple may weaken or disappear when your partner is no longer with you.

How broad is your base? It is an important question. Unlike a politician, you wonít need to conduct a poll to find the answer. Think about the relationships you have. How many are close enough to rely upon in a crisis? If the number is small start building your base while things are going smoothly. You never know when youíll need their support.

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