Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Caregiver's Grief

Caregiving for someone you love at best can be demanding and exhausting. If the person for whom you are caring has an illness without a cure and continues to decline before your very eyes, caregiving can become very discouraging. It can then feel like a grief process from which one can not escape. The trouble with this kind of grief process is that one never comes to complete resolution, because when one has accepted one step backwards in one’s loved one’s life another step backwards appears on the horizon.

As a caregiver for my husband for four and one half years I experienced many of these emotions. I was a part of a wonderful online support group at caregiving.com. This was very helpful, and I would recommend it to anyone who is a family caregiver. There were also many people who were praying for us and who showed kindness to us. It is amazing at times like this to find out who really shows care and concern, and who does not. Sometimes the care and concern is shown from ones from whom we least expect it, and it is not given by those whom we would expect to show love and concern.

In spite of all this I often felt alone in this process. It was me after all who basically dealt with the vast majority of the grief and challenges of helping my husband meet his daily needs, as he declined step by step. I did have the Lord God with me, however. I know He was with me step by step guiding me even when I was at my lowest points emotionally.

I also know He identified with me. The shortest verse of the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) He also felt crushed with grief when His friends were sleeping and not praying with Him and for Him in His greatest hour of trial just before He was put on the cross. (Matthew 26) As well as being my Savior He understood and identified with my every weakness, sorrow, and need as a caregiver to my husband. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Other people can not fully understand and identify with the caregiver’s heartache. The Lord God can identify, however. Dear caregiver, trust that the Lord God truly understands your grief, discouragement, and worries. He truly identifies with You, and He truly can help and comfort.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Your Finest Hour

During the years that I was a caregiver for my husband it was easy to feel discouraged and impatient at times. Caregiving for someone who is continually declining in his health is a difficult and challenging experience. People would sometimes say that they admired me for taking care of my husband, as I did. Sometimes people said things like “you are so strong,” or “you are a good example of perseverance in your Christian life.” I felt somewhat guilty when they would say that. I am and was not strong at all.

Were it not for God’s grace and strength I would have really fallen apart during those caregiving years. I hadn’t chosen or wanted this role in life at all, but it was the path God had assigned me. I just wanted to be a “normal” couple. I had to daily ask God for grace and strength for this role. Even at that it was a constant struggle to fight against the negative emotions. I constantly was aware of the fact that I was a very imperfect vessel that God was using in caring for my husband.

Dear caregiver, I am sure that you have at times experienced similar emotions. Be aware, however, that your caregiving days are important and significant days in your life. You are an imperfect human being, but you are doing a very important work in God’s kingdom. Also you are doing for your care recipient what no one else would do. You have stepped up to the plate, and you are doing the job of caring for your loved one even though perhaps no one else has chosen to help you in this endeavor .

During my caregiving days a poem was given to me. I now share it with you. May it be a blessing to you, as it was to me.

Prayer for the Caregiver
by Bruce McIntyre

Unknown and often unnoticed, you are a hero nonetheless.
For your love, sacrificial, is God at his best.
You walk by faith in the darkness of the great unknown,
And your courage, even in weakness, gives life to your beloved.

You hold shaking hands and provide the ultimate care:
Your presence, the knowing, that you are simply there.
You rise to face the giant of disease and despair,
It is your finest hour, though you may be unaware.

You are resilient, amazing, and beauty unexcelled,
You are the caregiver and you have done well!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Caregiver's Caregiver

As a caregiver for my husband before his death it seemed as if my energies and concerns were mostly all directed towards his needs. In such a scenario it was easy to long for some tender loving care directed to me and my needs.

In January of 2009 I posted the following comments on another online blog post:
“I am feeling some better after my stomach flu-a little tired yet. When I go to the dr. for post cancer treatment check-ups it would be nice to have my husband with me. When I broke my foot it would have been nice not to have had to drive into the dr. by myself. It would have been nice to have received a little TLC from my husband when I was in the midst of the worst of my flu symptoms. I praise You, Lord, however, that You are my great Caregiver, Shepherd, and Savior. Thank You that I am beginning to feel better after the flu. Thank You for Your daily blessings. Please help me to remain dependent on You.”

My husband because of his disability could not provide me with the caregiving that I myself needed, but my great heavenly Caregiver and Shepherd could do exactly that. In Isaiah 40:11 God says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” That verse was a beautiful reminder of God’s loving care for me as a caregiver. God Himself is the Christian caregiver’s Caregiver! Isn’t that an awesome thought, dear caregiver?

Monday, March 7, 2011

God in the Loneliness of Caregiving

As a caregiver I sometimes felt intense loneliness. Usually my husband, Wayne, for whom I was caring was right there with me in the room, and yet I felt a deep sense of loneliness. Of course these feelings of loneliness have greatly deepened since my husband’s death, but they were also there while he was still alive.

I think these feelings of loneliness came from my grief over my husband’s steady decline downwards. Because of this decline I could not and did not relate with him in the same way as I had in the past. I missed the way our relationship had been in the past. So there was a loneliness for that past relationship. There was a longing for the ability to communicate and talk things through, as we had in the past. There was a hunger for the fun times that we had experienced together in the past. There was a hunger for more of that spiritual and emotional connection we had experienced together in the past. There was a sadness in seeing him sleep away so much of his days and life being consumed with just meeting basic needs.

There was also a feeling of discouragement in knowing that others could not really understand and identify fully with all that Wayne and I were experiencing. It was a feeling of being all alone in this experience.

I found that reaching out to fellow caregivers online was a great help. Caregiving.com was a great help in this regard. I was able to first of all journal my own feelings through my blog posts at this site. This helped to crystallize my own feelings. It also helped me to connect with other bloggers at that site, and it made me realize that I was not alone in my caregiving experience.

Most importantly, however, was my reliance on God, prayer, and His Word. God’s promises to me in the Bible were a great comfort and help. He promised me and continues to promise me in Hebrews 13:5b “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” He also promised and continues to promise me that He will bring good in my character and life through the difficulties.

Dear caregiver, when you feel lonely trust that God is with you even when no one else seems to understand. His love and care for you is awesome and marvelous.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Caregiving and God's Word

There are so many negative emotions which can accompany caregiving. These emotions often are intense. In many situations caregiving involves seeing the one that you love deteriorate step by step before one’s very eyes. As a caregiver for my husband with a serious neurological disease for 4 ½ years until his death, I too experienced many of these emotions. (My caregiving story is recorded in my first blog post at this site.)

On December 23, 2008 I posted the following comments on another online blog site:
“Lord, help me in my struggle to remain humble, patient, kind, and unselfish in my dealings with my husband. Help me concentrate on the blessings I (we) still have and not on the way things used to be. Help me to not be angry but joyful. Fill me with your wisdom and lack of fear about the future. Sometimes it is tempting to feel all alone in this, Lord. I know that isn’t true. Many people care, but they do not fully understand. Why does the prayers and concern always seem to be about the one sick and not the caregiver? Yet I know many people are praying, Lord. Most of all I know you understand, Lord. Thank you that You are in control, Lord. I wish I could cry more, Lord; but you understand when my heart is weary and sad. Praise You for the hope I have in You, Lord.”

Fear, discouragement, impatience, grief, and feelings of being overwhelmed are all emotions which can accompany caregiving. One of the things I learned through my years of caregiving is that I could not do it myself. I had to lean heavily on God’s promises in God’s Word, the Bible. I needed to dig deeply into God’s Word. I needed to do whatever it took to get God’s Word into my heart and into my mind. God had an answer for every negative emotion and challenging caregiving situation I faced as my husband’s caregiver. I still need to remember that as I mourn his death.

Caregiving is so busy and time consuming. Take time in God‘s Word each day, however, dear caregiver. It is so important to your well-being both emotionally and spiritually.