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
-- 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
When from our better selves we have
long parted by the hurrying
world and droop-- how gracious,
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
V. Be Caring of Your Spiritual Health
Who can improve the prayer of Mother Teresa?
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.
AFTER THE DEATH
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
Comparisons are odious and offer great grievances.
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
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.