After her husband’s plane crash, Rachel Michelberg was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life.
The Los Altos Hills resident’s family tragedy led her to write a memoir, “Crash: How I Became a Reluctant Caregiver,” in which she chronicles the moral and emotional impact of caring for an impaired family member.
While Michelberg’s then-husband David survived the crash, he was left with severe brain and back injuries. She said his frontal lobe, which controls cognitive skills, emotions, impulsivity and processing, was severely harmed. According to Michelberg, David was in need of 24-hour supervision.
“I was thrust into this situation where the assumption is that I will become his caregiver,” she said. “I had the realization that that was a role that I wasn’t able to fulfill.”
Before the accident, Michelberg said their marriage had already been tough. She made the difficult decision to leave her husband after 10 years of marriage, becoming a single mother of two young children while dealing with a host of other challenges.
“My biggest concern was for my husband to have dignity to be cared for in the best possible situation, and I just knew that that couldn’t be with me,” Michelberg said. “I did work very hard to try to ensure that. In the end, I think it was the best possible outcome for all of us. He seems as happy as he can and has the best quality of life, and so does my family now. I really wanted him to have the best care and to have a dignified life.”
Michelberg began writing about this episode in her life in her memoir four years later, re-creating scenes that took place preceding the accident. Throughout the 11-year writing process, she said she experienced a lot of self-doubt, but she ultimately enjoyed being part of SheWrites Press, a hybrid publisher, and its community of women writers.
“I was afraid that my story wouldn’t have a popular appeal, but I really believe that at some point in most people’s lives, we are going to be faced with a caregiving dilemma, and it’s usually our parents that are going to need some kind of assistance,” she said. “We rarely have to face it with a spouse – that their needs are so great that it’s just inconceivable to be able to take care of them on your own.”
Michelberg brings readers through those difficult years and hopes the book sheds light on how to cope with moral dilemmas and caregiving expectations.
“I had options that not everyone does,” she said. “The message I want to give is that you’re important, and if you feel that your quality of life would be so severely affected that you would become resentful and angry, it’s OK to allow yourself permission to consider other options for the caregiving of your loved one.”
The book is scheduled for release April 27, with a virtual launch hosted by Books Inc. set for April 29. To register, visit tinyurl.com/aar5jca3. It also will be available through Barnes & Noble and other booksellers.
For more information, visit rachelmichelbergauthor.com.