Monday, August 15, 2011

Caregiving and Forgiveness?

One might ask oneself, “What connection is there between forgiveness and caregiving?" Forgiveness and struggling to forgive is always a part of any grief process or sense of loss in one’s life. Furthermore, there is a grief process that accompanies caregivng . This is especially true for those who are caregivers of someone with a long term and incurable illness. I know as I witnessed my husband’s health continue to decline step by step, I definitely went through a grief process.

Because Christ forgave us, we need to forgive others. Whom then might we need to forgive in the grief process that often accompanies caregiving? First of all, we need to accept God’s forgiveness of ourselves. As a caregiver although devoted to my husband and my marriage vows, I was less than perfect. I often felt impatient. I know there were times that I said and did things which showed this impatience and which was not up to God’s standard of love.

To not accept God’s forgiveness for these things would be a slap in the face of God, however. The obscure book of Micah in the Old Testament of the Bible tells us that God pardons and forgives our sins. In fact, He delights to show us His mercy; and He smashes our sins underfoot and throws those sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19) I also tended to put false guilt on myself at times for things that were out of my control. These too needed to be turned over to the Lord. I suspect this is true of most every caregiver at one time or another.

Secondly, we need to forgive others. Unless others are caregivers themselves they can not begin understand the heartaches and challenges of a caregiver. Hence, they may say trite and hurtful things. Also the people which one may think would be most likely to step up and help are often not there to assist.

It is okay and even necessary for a caregiver to ask people for help. How else are they going to know what one’s needs are? Some people will disappoint, however. Either they can not empathize, because they have not gone through the same caregiving experience, or they have issues and responsibilities of their own, or they do not feel emotionally equipped to get into the process of helping. As a caregiver, however, one has to let go and forgive. We are commanded to forgive, and a lack of forgiveness will only add to the emotional struggles which sometimes accompany caregiving.

Thirdly, it is also necessary at times for a caregiver to forgive one’s loved one for whom one is caring. No human being is perfect, and the caregiver’s loved one will not always show the love and gratitude to the caregiver that he or she might expect. As a caregiver I remember thinking that it would be nice to be thanked occasionally for all that I did for my husband. I do know my husband loved me, however, and we have to forgive and overlook these things. We need to forgive these things, because Christ has forgiven us. We also need to overlook these things for our own emotional health.

Finally, we need to be very careful that we do not blame God for our loved one’s ill health and for the trials of caregiving. We will never understand all the “whys,” but our best course of action is to trust our Lord God and to run to our Lord for strength and comfort.

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