...Decalogue Continued

IV. Be Caring of Your Emotional Health

"I feel so empty; life means nothing anymore."

The great object of life is sensation-- to feel that we exist even in pain.
-- Lord Byron

Caregiving is a high stress activity. Stress is a word borrowed from the field of engineering describing force applied to a structure. Stress also refers to the ordinary and extraordinary pressures of life. There are frequent ordinary pressures which you confront daily. Now there are new extraordinary stresses controlled by the unforeseen episodic nature of this devastating, prolonged illness.

You must take care of yourself in order to cope with this tragedy. Leave spaces in the day to find that deep and wordless place within you. In solitude you recharge your batteries. You nourish your mind-- not drain it. Choose wisely, whether it be meditation, prayer, or quiet moments just for yourself. When you don't calm down and refresh yourself, life gets out of control. The peace that you will find will make you a better caregiver.

When from our better selves we have
been too long parted by the hurrying
world and droop-- how gracious,
how benign is solitude.
-- William Wordsworth

You might discover quiet moments of reflection, inspiration, and connectedness in nature. There is healing in experiencing a majestic sunrise, a peaceful lake, a star-studded sky. Sights and smells of the unity of earth afford warmth and comfort. Nature's grandeur brings peace of mind and helps to repair the wounds of loss.

When you are tense and troubled, fearful of the future, listening to music can create a soothing atmosphere, relieving anxiety, calming anguish and uncertainties. Science has demonstrated how music can actually lower the heart rate. That's why there are professional music therapists to help reach and comfort cares and restlessness. Soothing music interrupts negative thoughts and changes your emotional direction. A familiar melody might evoke pleasant memories, recent or remote. That's why music has been called The Great Healer, The Comforter, The Companion, The Medicine of the Breaking Heart.

V. Be Caring of Your Spiritual Health

Who can improve the prayer of Mother Teresa?

Dearest Lord,
  May I see you today in the person of your sick, and while nursing them, minister to you. Give me faith so that my work will never be monotonous. O beloved sick, what a privilege is mine to be allowed to tend you!
  Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation. Never permit me to give way to coldness and hurry. Bless my work, now and forever more.

You will need to do the things that keep you spiritually in tune. Take time for spiritual care. Worship, walks, meditation, readings, or listening to music may be ways that you attend to your own spirituality. Despite the busyness, do not separate yourself from your sources of spiritual nourishment and strength. Now they are even more critical.


VI. Don't Compare Deaths

"My friends kept telling me how fortunate I am. After all, my wife was sick for such a long time and I had time to be with her. Her husband was killed in a car accident and she had no opportunity to prepare for such a catastrophic event."

Comparisons are odious and offer great grievances.
-- Burton

It is different when someone dies accidentally or suddenly. The impact is profound. There is no forewarning. Survivors feel powerless after their overpowering shock. The assault on emotions makes it difficult to believe and accept. One moment the world may seem fine; the next, the world crumples before their very eyes.

They may ask you: "Why are you taking it so hard? You knew she was dying. It's not as if you didn't have any warning. Didn't you have time to prepare for this?"

They don't understand. Whatever the circumstances, you are probably never prepared. Death almost always comes unexpectedly. Even after a prolonged illness, no one can completely plan for death. An old adage says: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him of your plans."

It doesn't help when people say to you: "Thank God, her suffering is over." Your loved one's suffering may be over, but yours isn't. Don't allow others-- or even yourself-- to deny or camouflage your grief.

Yes, you knew how sick she was. Yet, you may be swept away by onrushing feelings. It's difficult to have the link with your past severed completely. No matter how prolonged the illness, grief is still unbearable heartache, sorrow, loneliness. Because you loved, grief continues to walk by your side.


© Copyright Earl Grollman, 1997. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this work may be reproduced of transmitted in any form of by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system now or hereafter invented, without permission in writing from the Publisher.