Thursday, March 28, 2019

Personal Journal Pages

There is so much on my heart this morning, I thought I'd just share my personal journal with you today.

March 28, 2019
So many stories I've heard of late of lives changes by tragedy. A girl injured in a wreck another child died in as they were T-boned by a truck. Her injuries are similar to Chris'. Last night a local boy with a broken back while on a dirt bike ride. I relive my days in the ICU waiting room. All those emotions of fearing the unknown rehearse themselves once again... the scenes running through my mind... 

I pray for the families with an understanding of their life-altering situation. Life will never be the same even if their child gets "better." I think now of hope - & true faith - trusting Him in the midst - not just as a way out or a way to avoid bad things. 

I pray His grace sustains their souls and that they run to Him in the storm instead of away from Him. I pray they learn more about Him in a more intimate way. It's almost like I experience the trauma all over again for them...with them. I know their situations are different but no more, no less challenging than my own. We all must take what we've been handed and learn one trust Him more through it all.

May we trust more deeply...
May we rely on Him more fully...
May we LET His peace guard our hearts...
May we trust Him as the keeper of our souls...
In good times and in bad
In lean times and in full
May He truly be my all in all...
For God is good even when life is not.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Search Again

I love the Psalms. Maybe it's the way David and the other psalmists are so open and honest with their feelings. They say things we are taught not to say. Their openness and vulnerability help remind me that God doesn't get mad at us when we speak our mind. He may shake His head a bit or roll His eyes, lol. But He gets us. It's Psalm 103:14 that tells us, He remembers we are but dust (or flesh).  He knows us - He knows our frailty. He understands our humanness, even in the midst of caregiving. I don't think there's anything wrong with expressing our weaknesses to Him - telling Him how we feel. It's not like He doesn't know if we don't tell Him.

Sometimes, though, I wonder how my babbling could make sense to Him. But then I remind myself that He understood it before I said it. That's right. Psalm 139:4 says You know what I am going to say even before I say it.  That lets me know he knows my heart's intent and the words are not as important. There have been those times I've broken down under the load of caregiving - worn out, exhausted, weary, grieved, and any other term that might fit - and I've had no words only silent cries. It's during those times I often feel Him the closest.

I think that's why I like psalm 139 so much and why I return to it so often. David talks about an up-close-and-personal God - one who is not afraid to be intimate with His people. A God who knows all the ins and outs and loves anyway. He never tosses me aside because I get frustrated with the situation (and I do that often!). He doesn't distance Himself from me (couldn't if He wanted to) when I go off into crazy mode. Those times I am off the chain and not sure what to do next - He whispers I am Here.  And then He offers direction and peace.

In this psalm, David talks about the omnipresence of God and that there is nowhere we can go to "get away" from Him. The deepest, darkest days of caregiving cannot separate us from Him. The highest, most pleasant days can't either.

What I found interesting as I read it this morning was this, though. In the first verse, David says O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. He goes through the whole discourse about how God is with us and He cannot possibly leave us - nor can we actually leave Him. Then he says in verse 23 Search me O God, and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts. It just hit me a bit funny that he expressed in the final verses what he said had already happened. Maybe David and I are related. lol

Sometimes we can feel like God is so close. Honestly, there are times it feels He is far away. We can go from you have searched me to search me again in a matter of seconds. And that's okay with God. He has searched before time began, He remembers our hearts, and He will search us again just to let us know He understands us. He gets us. And He still chooses to be with us. I like that.

Today once again, I will remind myself of His ever-abiding presence, of His faithfulness, and of His closeness. I'll meditate on the truth that He wants to be close to me even in the chaos. And I'll embrace His peace as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Can I Call You?

Today is a whirlwind. I have things that must get done. It's late. I haven't even gotten Chris up. He's sleeping and that's okay since he's been improving his brain requires more sleep. But it throws my groove off. On top of the caregiving tasks the day-to-day stuff, I have totally taken on too much work. Maybe I should hire someone to help! lol

It feels like everything is spiraling out of control including my head and my emotions. My thoughts are going 90 to nothing and my to-do list is growing longer with no break in sight. What are we to do when life takes these rapid turns?

I was reading in Psalm and found this nugget for today. The Lord is close to all who call on Him, yes to all who call on Him sincerely. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cries for help and He rescues them.  (Psalm 145:18, 19 NLT) I may not need a physical rescue today - but my soul certainly could use a rescue from this whirlwind. I kind of hope no one identifies. But I'm sure many get caught up in emotions and thoughts too.

This verse reminds me that He is close to me. I just have to remember to call on Him and not try to navigate the craziness myself. I guess once again it's about leaning into Him a little more closely and trusting Him a little more fully. I must remind myself that He's got this. He's got me.

I love it that I don't have to schedule a call with God. There's no online calendar for making appointments in heaven. And I don't even have to wait for Him to get off the other line. As soon as my heart hits that panic button and my begins to cry out to Him in desperation and sincerity - He answers. I wonder if He hears those silent cries for help even louder than the audible ones.

Today, I will turn my thoughts into prayers for direction, strength, and wisdom. I'll lean in a bit closer and remind myself that He is close when I call. I'll open up my heart and let it share all the things I'm afraid to say, scared to think. And I will trust Him to hear me, to carry me, to get me through just today. Will you join me?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Far From Home

Isn't it funny how you can read the Bible through and still find hidden nuggets? Maybe that's because YOU are in a different spot in life each time you read. I don't know. But I found this verse this morning, even though I'm sure I've read it before.

It's in Micah 4:6-7. God is speaking through the prophet to encourage His people. They were in a bind and He is assuring and comforting them. The NLT reads, I will gather my people who are lame, who have been exiles, filled with grief. They are weak and far from home, but I will make them strong again, a mighty nation. Then I, the Lord, will rule from Jerusalem as their king forever.

As caregivers, we may not be in the exact situation Micah's audience was in, but I think we can relate. Maybe it's just me - I can relate. lol.

One thing that stands out is that God is speaking directly to three types (not sure what other word to use here) of people. The hyper faithers try to make it sound like the world is perfect, all is as it should be, etc. But God is addressing the lame, the exiled, and the grieving. I think parallels can be drawn to caregiving.

The lame. Sometimes we can feel lame or at least out of step with the rest of the world. We may walk with a limp due to our circumstances, or at least feel like we do. Somedays caregiving is overwhelming and we can feel like we have no (spiritual) walk at all.

The exile. Social isolation is a real concern for caregivers. Many do not have a "social" life at all and for others, it can be limited. It's difficult to maintain relationships when they don't understand why you can't be consistent. They don't comprehend why you have to cancel so often. Eventually, I just stopped trying. It's easy to feel cut off from society, cut off from the rest of the world.

Those filled with grief. Each caregiving situation is different, but there can be many arenas of grief. Some grieve as they shift roles to take care of parents. We grieve as an elderly loved one begins to forget us when suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's.In my situation, I grieve over the son I lost - while I am still taking care of him. Living grief is overwhelming.

The good news is that God doesn't ignore us like so much of the world does. He says - they are weak and far from home - but I'm going to make them strong again. He doesn't give up on us when we feel lame, exiled, or grieve-stricken. Instead, He reaches out His hand to us and gives us strength. he doesn't condemn us - he strengthens us.

Today, I'm going to meditate on how He comes to us when we are weak. I like that, don't you? He doesn't run away because He doesn't know what to do with us. He says - you're weak- I'm strong. I'll be thankful that He doesn't discard us, doesn't look at us with disdain, but simply stretches out His hand to us. I'll take His hand today. Will you join me?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Surrounded Inside and Out

I started out my reading this morning in Hebrews 12. Verse 28 caught my attention. It says, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping Him with holy fear and awe. (NLT) I just rolled that around a bit in my head - two things actually. The first being that we have "a kingdom that can't be destroyed" and secondly we should be thankful.

Maintaining an attitude of thankfulness can go a long way to help keep our emotions above water. Some days are more difficult than others, but there's always something we can find to be thankful for. Today, I'll be thankful that the Kingdom of God cannot be destroyed. God did not get up off His throne and throw in the proverbial towel when my life fell apart. He didn't quit. He didn't say it's not worth it, I can't do this anymore. He never gives up - never gives in - never quits. What happens in our lives good or bad cannot destroy the Kingdom of God. It will stand.

Let's take it a bit further. In Luke 17:21, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within you. Paul also reminds the believers in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven. No matter what we face, God won't kick us out. He never says our circumstances are too dirty, too complicated, too involved for Him. His kingdom - the one that is in us - the one we are a part of - stands forever. It's sort of like being surrounded, isn't it? The Kingdom is in us - we are in the Kingdom.

Once again, there are no exclusionary statements here. Note Jesus didn't say the Kingdom of God is within you - unless you are a caregiver... unless you are sick... unless you are discouraged.. unless you are.... fill in the blank. If we are a part of Him the Kingdom is in us and we are in the Kingdom.

Today, I will be thankful that the foundation of God's throne and His Kingdom are not shaken by my circumstances. I'll meditate on that and turn my thoughts to His faithfulness and I'll thank Him that He doesn't give up on me, He can't He is part of me and I am part of Him. I can trust Him with today. I'll trust Him with my heart today - will you join me?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Barren Life

This morning during my devotions, my readings and thoughts were all over the place as usual. I read for a while in Isaiah and meditated on some of the verses in chapter 54. I may not be barren in the natural sense, but sometimes it feels like I live a fruitless and barren life. My heart argues with that and says I bear fruit - but my eyes just don't see it most of the time.

The prophet Isaiah is encouraging the barren to sing and shout for joy. I'm like, why?  The Lord promised enlargement and spreading out to resettle desolate lands. Verse 4 says fear not for you will not be put to shame, and do not feel humiliated for you will not be disgraced, but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

Sometimes it feels like life has disgraced us - stripped us of walking gracefully through. Life can be humiliating. Caregiving can be daunting and downright ugly at times. But it always yields fruit. We are not barren - we just don't look like everyone else.

Isaiah goes on to talk about how God expressed His concern and compassion to His children. In verse 8 he quotes the Lord, with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you. May this be true for each of us who are pursuing Him today. May He gather us up in His love as He encompasses us with everlasting lovingkindness and compassion.

Today, I'll meditate on how He looks at us with compassion, not disdain like many do. My thoughts will be on His everlasting lovingkindness - that doesn't change or stop due to life's most barren circumstances. He is our water in the desert and I'll trust Him for a drink of mercy to help in my time of need today. I will trust that He is bringing forth fruit in this barren life - will you join me?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Have you ever felt forgotten? I have. We can easily get sucked into the caregiver's fog and the rest of the world goes on without us. Today is my son's 35th birthday. These days are difficult. I opened up his facebook to read him his greetings only to be flooded with his friend's who have "gone on" with their lives, and they should.

They stopped visiting and calling long ago when he couldn't answer them. I don't blame them, they were all so young when he was injured. But it still hurts my heart that he is forgotten and left to just deal.

Then some caregivers have to deal with another side of being forgotten. It can yield a host of emotions from a totally different angle. That is when we care for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's. They forget us. My mom hasn't quite forgotten me yet, but most of the time it takes her a few minutes to figure out I'm not just someone who works there. Mid-conversation she'll look up and go, "OH! You're my daughter!" It's funny -but it's not.

It is emotional to be forgotten, no matter what the circumstances. We want to be remembered. It's not anyone's fault but it can still wear away at our emotions. I have to remind myself that there is One who has not forgotten. God never forgets. He knows what we walk through each day as caregivers. He understands all those seemingly little things that wear away at our minds and emotions.

Isaiah 49:15 asks, Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget - but I will not forget you.

In Psalm 27:10, the psalmist says for my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.

Caregiving can be a lonely walk. We can feel forgotten by men and God. We can't fix the human part -  but we can rejoice in God's part. He will not forget us - He will not forget our afflictions. Instead, He comes running to us to help us - and carry us when needed. Let's just acknowledge that He is here and encourage ourselves in the truth that He has not forgotten us.

Today, I will remind myself that He hasn't forgotten the hand life dealt me. I will meditate on His care of my heart and mind. I'll be thankful that He is the keeper of my soul. This will be my meditation today as I lean a little more into Him on this emotional day. Will you join me?

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Downward Spiral

I'm not sure what I'm dealing with more today - aloneness or grief. Some days I can shuck my emotions down to one or the other. Other days it just seems to suck me into a downward spiral that can be difficult to recover from.

This week is Chris' birthday. He'll be 35. I get stuck wondering where he might have gone, what he'd be doing IF. The if's are a time and emotion sucker because they really are meaningless. I can't change what could have or would have happened. I can only deal with what is on my plate today.

Jesus mentioned that in Matthew 6:34. He said, do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Caregivers can get sucked into the downward spiral by measuring and comparing everyone else's life with their own. The caregiver's fog can overtake us when we don't stay focused on the present. Or even if we get too lost in the present.

Taking a good look in His word or spending some time in worship can help me change my focus off the nasty now-and-now and help me remember that He is forever. He is faithful. He is present. I go to verses like Psalm 46:1 - and remind myself that He is a present help in time of trouble.

Today, I'll try to stay away from social media as much as possible while I remind myself that I'm still His. He is still carrying me because I cannot walk on my own. I'll trust Him to rescue me from the emotional downward spiral as I place my focus on what He has done rather than what I see right in front of me. I'll trust that He still has my heart in His hand and I'll trust Him just for today - will you join me?

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Caregiver's Armor

This morning I was reading in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. In verse 11, Paul tells the believers to put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm. As I read through his brief descriptions of the armor and the benefits, I thought how applicable it is to us as believers and caregivers. I think it's safe to say we live in the thick of the battle - furnace walkers. The fire is always reaching toward us. Every day can be a battle. Sometimes, every second of the day is spent trying to catch our breath. Breathe.

As I read over the familiar pieces I realized how relevant each piece is to our struggles. Also, at the front of my mind was the truth that we are not disqualified from wearing the armor just because we are caregivers. As a matter of truth, we were not stripped of any of our promises when caregiving came along. We are still just as much of a believer and still covered by His righteousness and filled up with Him as we ever were. Actually, sometimes we press into Him more because of the difficult circumstances and became stronger in the faith. So let's look at the armor from a caregiver's perspective.

Put on the belt of truth. Lies can dig away at our sanity day after day. Lies I hear a lot include that I'm not "worth" the effort or that I have no value to offer relationships. I don't deserve friends. The truth of God's word tells me that I am deeply loved by my Father. As a caregiver, I didn't "give up" my spot in the family of God. I still matter. I am still loved and I still need Him!

Put on the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protects our heart. We are covered by His righteousness. Caregivers and non-caregivers can never be righteous on our own - we need Him to cover us. We did not become un-righteous when we became caregivers. His righteousness still keeps our heart right before Him and allows us to present ourselves before Him holy and complete. I'm thankful for that.

Put on the shoes of the gospel. Shoes protect our feet and allow us to go many more miles. We still have opportunities to share the good news with others. I have a constant flow of medical professionals and health care workers through my home. I can say there have been numerous discussions about the good news - God is still faithful. He is still near. Let's keep the "good news" on our feet to protect our daily walk by reminding ourselves and others of His constant pursuit of us!

Carry the shield of faith. I have said many times my faith has been redefined by caregiving. Here, Paul points out that it's the shield of faith that stops or quenches the fiery darts aimed by the enemy. Our enemy really hopes to get us to stop believing. But wouldn't that be a dumb thing to do now? Faith protects us in the trial - it doesn't prevent the darts from being shot - but it protects them from damaging us.

Put on the helmet of salvation. I am so thankful my salvation is not impacted by life's trials. When we are saved - it's a done deal. The fiery darts of the enemy cannot touch it. The trials and struggles we face each day cannot weaken it or separate us from Him. We must protect our heads and thoughts with the truth that our salvation is untouchable.

Take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The word of God should be in our hearts, minds, and hands constantly. When we start to consider the lies of the enemy - it's like we lay down the sword of the word and pick up his words. We must keep the word in our hands - it's our weapon and method of navigating through life's difficult circumstances.

Today, I'm going to think about the pieces of God's armor. It's what He has provided to protect our hearts, heads, hands, feet, and loins. My meditation will be on how He has protected me well. My job is to put it on and keep it on. I'll turn my thoughts to what a wonderful spiritual provider He is! I'll be thankful He doesn't change due to my circumstances. And I'll trust Him for this one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Passing the Test

Come let us worship and bow down... let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker. For He is our God. I think it's always time to worship. Job is of course, our great example. In the last part of chapter 1, a then a fourth messenger arrived with yet more bad news. You know the saying, just when you think it couldn't get any worse. No matter how difficult the days of the caregiver can be - it really can get worse. (God forbid!!)

Job's response to bad news getting worse was to shave his head as a sign of mourning and fell to the ground and worshipped. The heading in one of my Bibles says, Job's Testing. Well, our friend Job who endured much hardship passed his test - his response was perfect. Verse 22 of chapter 1 says in all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. I wish I could say that in my trial I didn't sin by blaming God. I cannot.

I've often wondered why. What did I do wrong? Where did I not trust Him? etc. In those midnight hours when Chris was sick and had a high fever or days that were just rougher, I've been so angry at God for allowing it to happen. I've asked the hard questions - it's not like He is unaware of them hiding out in my heart anyway - Why have you forsaken me? Do you see what is happening? What's wrong? Can't you heal brain injuries?

You get the idea. Job passed his "test." And over time, we pass ours too. I may be a little slow. But I always come back around to God. Seriously, I have nowhere else to go. I am not looking for another shelter. I'm not looking for another god to sustain my soul. I know that I know that I know God is my source. And I always let my emotions out and then work back around to full trust. Isn't that still passing the test? I think so.

Those down moments for caregivers come when we are tired, exhausted, socially isolated, overwhelmed and frustrated. But they don't last long. I'm so thankful that God allows me to dump out my emotions without judgment or condemnation. He is right there to pick me up and comfort me when I stop hollering and whimpering. He never fails His test either. :-)

Today, I'm thankful for a God who waits nearby until I let Him pick me up raw emotions and all. I'll meditate on how He does not judge me for letting caregiving "get to me." He patiently waits until I can trust Him again. I love that about Him. My meditation will be on how He is the "keeper of my soul" and that includes my crazy emotions. I'll trust Him to love me, carry me, and be patient with me through this storm. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What About That White Horse?

After a couple of weeks, I was comfortable in the ICU waiting room. There was a certain sense of community there as we were all there for our loved ones. It was a horrible place really. I wouldn't leave because a doctor might bring word out about Chris at any time. Whoever had been there the longest sort of ruled their roost and I was the designated sleeper in a particular recliner. I recall sleeping and waking up hoping it was all a dream. But it wasn't. Somehow I kept thinking God was going to come riding through on His white horse and rescue me. But He didn't. And thus, began my walk of redefining faith.

God never promised He'd rescue us out of life's fiery trials, but He did promise He'd walk through them with us. He said He'd never abandon us, never leave us. In Isaiah 43, God tells the prophet I have called you by name, you are mine. I like that I am His and not one thing life can throw at me changes that. Think about that for a second. My kids can get mad at me - tell me I'm not their mom. But their blood and DNA will always scream they are mine! We will always be His.

Isaiah 43 goes on to talk about going through the fires and floods. God never promises a way of escape - no white horses here. But He does make these promises:

When you go through deep waters and great trouble - I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty - you will not drown!
When you walk through the fires of oppression - you will not burn up.

Even though we are not going to see or experience a dramatic rescue scene, we are not alone, we will not drown, and life's trials will not consume us. He has this. He has us. In chapter 61 of Isaiah, God made promises to those who mourn. Now what stood out to me was this. To those who mourn in Zion. Zion is the dwelling of the Lord, how could there be mourning there? He never promised we would be exempt from trials, floods, and fires. He did promise we wouldn't be overcome. Just because we are in the church and part of the body of Christ doesn't mean we will not mourn. Caregivers often live with grief. There's no condemnation... only comfort.

Today, I think I'll be grateful He didn't ride in on a white horse because I would have missed so much of the journey to intimacy with Him. I'll meditate on His grace and how my faith has grown through the trial. And I will trust Him to carry me through one more day white horse or not! Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

No Hours of Operation

In the natural, I'm a runner. I started running way back when Chris was first in the hospital. I am slower and fatter - but I still love it. It's a large part of how I manage my health both mentally and physically. Usually, a good run clears my mind and gets me back on track. One of my favorite songs to listen to while I'm running is "I'm running - running after You - You've  become my heart's desire." I think about running to Him both of us with arms open wide - and I can run for miles.

Proverbs 18:10 reminds us that we can run to Him, and I use "run" loosely. The name of the Lord is a strong fortress, the godly run to Him and are safe. As I thought on this scripture this morning and how often I have to run to Him for safety, I thought of an old hymn: A Mighty Fortress is Our God. So I looked up the lyrics. It's old English so it's a bit hard to understand. So, I'll focus on just the last verse since it's the one that stood out to me.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.

I read that last verse over and over and a couple things stood out. I marked those in bold. No matter if friends, relatives, or others distance themselves, our bodies fall apart, or whatever other things may happen to this body - or in this life - God's truth abideth still. We can always run to Him  - He will always be our fortress in the times of trouble or the times without trouble. He just stands. His truth still stands. So, when Solomon said the Lord is our fortress, our strong tower - there is no end. He never set a time limit or said we have to get there by Wednesday or it's closed. There are no restrictions or hours of operation. God is always open and His arms ready to embrace. I find comfort in the truth that I can run to Him and He simply will always be my fortress, my protection, my safe place and my strong tower against the enemy.

Today I will meditate on how He is always open to receive me. He is always ready to care for me so I don't have to. God's saving and protecting fortress is just waiting for me to come running so He can surround me with His songs of deliverance and fill me with His peace. I'm running to Him today - will you join me?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Everything is Everything

Do you ever feel like life has sort of passed you by? I talked about how I sometimes feel politely ignored in another post. Maybe you feel like you drew the proverbial short stick. Maybe it's just me - but I had so many dreams and plans that were jerked out from under me with that one phone call. It can feel like no one really understands what we are going through, not that they are expected to. The caregiver's cave becomes an alone place - but a safe place for us.

I was thinking along these lines this morning and a verse came to mind. It took me a few minutes to find it as it's not really a super familiar one, to me anyway. It's in Exodus12:40-42. The New Living Translation reads this way:  The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the Lord's forces left the land. This night has been reserved by the Lord to bring his people out of the land of Egypt...

What stood out to me was that the days were numbered. God knew the exact time when they went into captivity and the exact day they were freed. God knew that it was the last day of year 430. That just sort of blows my mind. If He had their days numbered so much as to reserve a specific day to bring them out - He must be familiar with our cave-dwelling days too!

Nothing escapes His view. He sees when we are weak, overwhelmed, or discouraged. He also sees when we feel in control, are strong, or just okay. There isn't anything that escapes His notice. He is aware when we are rejoicing in small victories as well as when we feel defeated and overcome. Somehow I found it comforting that He doesn't miss a thing. He sees everything. He knows where we are no matter how far back into the cave we crawl...He knows the day, the hour, the minute and seconds we fail to trust Him - or choose to trust Him. and like the Children of Israel - He is keeping watch over us and keeping count.

Today, I will meditate on how He truly does know everything - every emotion, every thought, every fear...and still hears my cry and comes to my aid. My thoughts will be on His ever-abiding presence as I trust Him to carry me through the emotions of this day. Will you join me?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Comforting Presence in a Dark Time: Helping Seniors Cope with the Loss of a Spouse

Profoundly painful. Disorienting. Emotionally devastating. Those are just some of the ways elderly people describe what it’s like to lose a spouse. Helping a senior cope with such a loss can be extraordinarily difficult. For those who have never had the experience, it’s impossible to appreciate how different losing a spouse is from losing a parent, a sibling or close friend. The bereaved person may experience confusion, indecision, or a total lack of motivation. Suddenly bereft of a helpmate and lifetime partner, they need help but may not know how to ask for it. So what can you do?

Listen unconditionally
One of the greatest kindnesses you can perform is to listen. Listen unconditionally and with empathy. Sometimes, encouraging a grieving individual just to talk about their spouse and letting them know you’re there to listen can be therapeutic. Simply allowing a loved one to share thoughts or vent pent-up emotions can be a valuable service. But it does require patience and a sense of restraint. Saying “I know how you feel” can come across as a shallow, patronizing statement if you truly don’t know.
Part of being a good, patient listener is allowing a bereaved senior to grieve freely. They may exhibit depression, remorse, resignation, and a host of other feelings (perhaps even contradictory ones) that may be overwhelming, even startling. Try to remember that this is an important part of the healing process, a sharing of feelings that can make the difference between a debilitating emotional decline and a glimmer of light that brings a little relief and a sense of hope.

Day-to-day coping
Coping with grief often makes it difficult for seniors to perform day-to-day tasks such as paying bills or taking medication. Children can be particularly helpful by supporting a parent in these mundane-yet-important tasks, freeing them to deal with their grief without the extra burden of personal responsibility. Seniors in mourning often find it difficult to stay organized. You can help by offering to help plan a schedule or drive them to appointments.

Maintaining a physical presence can be important because bereavement may produce powerful emotional responses at unpredictable times. Something may trigger a memory that produces a sudden crying spell or proves temporarily incapacitating. Having a loved one nearby who can do the driving, clean the house or wash dishes is not only emotionally supportive but can help prevent injury at a time when your parent or relative may be distracted and inattentive. 

Time to downsize?
For seniors who suddenly find themselves alone, taking care of a house as well as themselves can be daunting. There are belongings to go through, legal matters to attend to, and more. The stress of keeping things clean and organized may become too much. If this is the case, it might be time to consider downsizing to a smaller home, where your parent would have far less they are responsible for. To keep the process manageable, Angie’s List suggests creating (and sticking to) a moving schedule, decluttering and getting rid of items no longer needed, and starting small by packing closets first.

For certain seniors, an assisted living facility may be a better option. Here, your parent would receive physical assistance, emotional support, and social stimulation every day. It can be a difficult matter to bring up, especially for someone who’s used to being independent, but the benefits of assisted living can truly make a difference for an elderly person dealing with loneliness and depression for the first time. Many facilities offer temporary stays, during which individuals can get a feel for whether assisted living is for them.

Losing a spouse and lifetime companion is an inevitability for which no one is ever really prepared. Those who suffer such a loss may have needs they themselves don’t understand. Relatives and friends can provide a comforting presence just by being near, lending a loving ear or offering a helping hand. 

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