On October 28, 2010 and 2011 respectively, I lost my husband and daughter to cancer; one to pancreatic cancer, the other to lung cancer. For the past four years I have dreaded the coming of this day. It is not common that you lose the closest members of your immediate family on the same day. However, I vowed that this year I would approach this date with less forboding. I decreed and declared that I would get through the month of October with joy and expectation of what God has, is, and will continue to do through my life.
Well, I guess the devil heard that declaration; and October has turned out to be a very challenging month. My BFF's mother died on October 18, another friend of mine lost her grandson on the 11th and father on the 21st. I took both of those deaths to heart. I really had to focus and not allow my selft to "get in the boat" with all of their despair and grief. I prayed, worshiped and praised God whenever I found my heart being overtaken with anxiety.
My mother was a caregiver to my Dad when he was diagnosed with lymohoma. He suffered with that disease for about five years. He was pretty independent most of the time, but towards the end, he needed more care. When my daughter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her husband, my husband and I, his mother and a host of family and friends, took on the challenge of being there for my daughter. She had just given birth to a daughter which make of caregiving responsibilities double.
Caregiving can be an exhausting ordeal. Following her parents' deaths five weeks apart, in a nursing home 1,200 miles away, Beth Witrogen McLeod succumbed to clinical depression. She writes: "By ignoring my physical and mental health... I set myself up for a breakdown it would be two years to recover from." Despite its rewards, caregiving can be overwhelming." The Psalmist said, "When my spirit was overwhelmed... You knew my path." God understands. He also expects you to exercise wisdom. As gerontologist Dr, Helen Susik says: " A burned-out caregiver can't provide quality care." So: Protect your time, especially with family:
It is easy to schedule every waking minute with nothing left over for yourself. Find something that feeds you-read your Bible, pray, exercise, enjoy some solitude- and schedule it. Ask for help: If your siblings aren't pulling their weight, call a family meeting and delegate. It is tempting to try to do it all yourself, but don't deny others the blessing that comes from "encouraging the fainthearted and helping the weak" (See 1 Th 5:14). Stay connected: "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Invite two friends over who have volunteered to help. One can cook and llok after your loved one, while you and the other friend take a walk and savor your freedom.
Be aware of destructive coping patterns, like misusing medication, overeating, and drinking to take the edge off. Set boundaries: Protect your time and energy by saying no where before you routinely said yes. Remember, there is nothing selfish about taking care of yourself, so you can give the best possible care to someone else.
I had to learn these lessons also. I was beginning to look defeated, unhealthy, oppressed, and aboandoned. I had to see counsel, watch what I was eatining, take time off from ministry, go on vacation and just begin to love myself.