enCOURAGEment for lonely caregivers…

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Confession: I recently got razzed by my husband for indulging in a bit of southern gospel.

To be fair, I returned the favor by mentioning his return to his childhood roots. This genre of music, ahem, largely focuses on how sad and lonesome you are because your lover left you in the dust, the dog died, the bills are piling up, and the old pick-up truck’s run its last mile. 

To tell you the truth, my life kind of looks like his genre of music.

When I got a request from a reader for a post on the lonely side of caregiving, it hit an instant chord with me. If you’re a long-term caregiver, it’s especially true. I was reminded again that caregivers deal with this constantly, but we aren’t the only ones feeling lonely!

One of my senior saints told me again this week for the upteenth and maybe last time, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”

She and her husband have walked with Jesus for more than forty years. They’re in their eighties. He’s faced two bouts of cancer. Since December her husband has been in and out of the hospital.  Last week, their only nearby daughter was in the ICU while they were packing and moving into a senior apartment.

I sat and cried and hugged her. I have never seen her so sad and lonely. “My daughter’s been my rock. I’ve leaned on her a lot. She would be right here helping me today. Now I don’t even know what is wrong with her!”

All the while, her home of more than forty years was suddenly being torn apart like a living plant being ripped up by the roots. This lady has literally kept most things in the same spot for the past ten years that I’ve done housekeeping for them. Every. Single. Item.

My tears dripped and mingled with hers. I wonder if her heart will ever recover from this dual shock. Yet, I pray in hope – hope for her and for myself.

Where is the hope in this, you wonder?

If you’re at all like me, no one near you know really  understands your struggles as a wife to a chronically ill husband.

At home you don’t share your struggles because you don’t want to further depress your struggling spouse.

You certainly don’t want to discourage your children, if you’re a parent.

There’s no human being to talk to, you feel like, who will listen with compassion and not criticize your already bruised heart. However, like me, you have friends. Christian friends who love the Lord — they express their care and compassion in the ways they know how.

But you are too busy trying to survive to get to their Bible studies, their ladies’ nights out, etc., because you are literally doing the job of two people at home. It’s incredibly hard to find time to invest in other relationships.

Jesus is our only true hope in loneliness. My relationship to Him is my top investment.

His hands have made and fashioned me. (Psalm 139) He knows my every move and my every thought. Have you read this passage lately? Put your name into it as you read!

I can pour out all my feelings and needs to Him without shame, because He already knows what I’m struggling with at the moment.

When I do have shame because of sin, I can freely confess this and be freely forgiven. His wounds have paid my ransom.

While we can never receive from another human being this level of understanding, we should not cut ourselves off from Christ’s body, either.

We want to let Christ make us better, not allow ourselves to be bitter.

We have to be willing to continue to love Christ’s body even when it’s messy, even ugly, and imperfect, just like us.

Some things you just cannot share.

Some things will never be understood by someone who has never walked this road.

But share what you can. It takes courage.

Be willing to have some vulnerability. Be willing to say to that friend who asks how things are going, “Yes, life is incredibly challenging. Pray for me to juggle wisely! Or, pray for this upcoming doctor’s visit to actually be worth our time and effort.”

I recently told a friend that my husband has been walking through a very dark valley. She knew this partially already because of some things he had (unwisely) posted on the internet. Sigh.

But, she didn’t know the whole story. I couldn’t and won’t tell her everything, but I did share what I could. If she could see the whole picture, like God does, her perspective would be very different. She’s not God. Neither am I. But I’m the one person on earth that should have the most compassion and understanding for my husband. That’s what Jesus wants from me.

Even Jesus’ closest friends fell asleep during his hour of deepest need. Peter even betrayed him. Jesus does understand loneliness.

I’ve come to understand you have to choose your “inner circle” wisely. Shut out the negative. Shut out those who think they’re helping by criticizing, at least in the sense of limiting contact. But make sure you also keep those close to your heart who truly love Jesus.

Soak yourself in what is true, lovely, and right. Once again, may I recommend the Psalms?

True love and understanding waits for you right here. There is not a sorrow or struggle you feel that isn’t mentioned in the Psalms.

I also love the book of John where Jesus gives out the different I AMs.  I am the Bread of Life. I am the Living Water. I am the True Vine. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Light of the World.  All I need, He is.

Then there’s Isaiah. The gospel and Jesus are so clearly seen in this book, it’s amazing. Parts of it read like a Psalm. For sure, the prophet knew his Messiah!

The Word. The Church. Christ’s Bride. I find these to be true cures for loneliness. I hope this helps you battle loneliness, too. How may I pray for you this week?

 

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11 thoughts on “enCOURAGEment for lonely caregivers…

  1. You wrote, “But you are too busy trying to survive to get to their Bible studies, their ladies’ nights out, etc., because you are literally doing the job of two people at home. It’s incredibly hard to find time to invest in other relationships.” EXACTLY!! And it does take courage to be vulnerable. Especially with someone who wants to understand, but really just can’t. People say well-meaning, but, let’s face it, foolish things sometimes. I try to look at their hearts more than the words that they actually say. And I forgive them. But, sometimes it alters the relationship a bit for what I choose to share next time. It just has to be that way.

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    • I know. James reminds us about the “perfect” saint. They never sin with their tongue. Wish that was me. Yes, depending on the level of foolish, or sometimes prying questions, trust levels are damaged. It’s a challenging balance. Forgive, but trust? Maybe not. Maybe I’ve learned a lesson that iI need to be more cautious around this person.

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  2. Thank you for this post. I am really struggling to get past failing to please all the time and making mistakes.. Please pray I will press and keep taking one day at a time!

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  3. Thank you for this beautiful post. I was primary caregiver for my parents for over ten years. While I did talk about what was happening with friends and family, none of them seemed able or willing to hear the whole story. I began pouring my heart out to the Lord, and He patiently listened to every word and helped me gain and maintain a healthy perspective. I believe He sustained my physical health as well. My relationship with Him grew by leaps and bounds in ways that may never have happened if I was enjoying an easy, “normal” life. He is so good! And you are right that the Psalms are a must for caregivers–David’s psalms especially helped me through some of my darkest hours.

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    • Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story. My grandmother, 94, just passed away this week. My aunt cared for her for 10 years and then my mom and sister for the last 3 + years of her being bed/chair-ridden and totally unable to care for herself except to move food to her mouth!

      My caregiving journey is quite different, but equally challenging in physical and emotional ways that only God can fully understand. Still, I felt Christian caregivers should have a place of understanding and encouragement — and a place to share some of the pain without feeling judged by those who cannot possibly understand walking in our shoes. Love and prayers to you…

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  4. I just found your website/blog tonight, Nov 4 2018 as I searched for Support for wives of chronically ill husbands. I have been reading for over 2 hrs now. My heart goes out to you and others in these trying challenges. I too, in a marriage of 48 yr. have undergone many trials and sorrows in a marriage that was not what I had truly hoped for. Though a good man, he was a workaholic, has had an anger problem, neglected his health, and now retired for 8 yr has spent the last almost 4 with serious lung issues from a compromised immune system attacking his own body. Pneumonia almost took him home to the Lord 3.5 yr ago but he made it through Praise the Lord. Since then he has scarred lungs, a constant struggle with breathing issues, pneumonias 6 more times, susceptibility to any virus, germ, bacteria, fungi, pathogen, weakness, depression, and anger and fear. There seems to be no season of the year that is good for him outdoors. He is so discouraged most of the time. Our life together has come to a halt as he can do very little, avoids crowds, has no energy, is a non-communicator, bitter and feels hopeless. I find I am so lonely, frustrated, unable to sleep well, disappointed with all that has been lost, stolen, robbed from us both with this unexpected health development. I feel angry inside but try to keep it out of the way, don’t seem to enjoy bible studies anymore..though I go, overeat, and spend lots of time on this computer to the detriment of my body and time in the Word and with the Lord, and housework. I know it is not good but I feel so helpless to help him, depressed, cheated out of our senior years, (we are only 70 this yr), and wondering how much longer I can handle this. It has changed him and it is changing me…but I am not sure it is for the better. We are born-again believers in Christ and attend church (though he is often not well enough to go of late, or avoiding flu season and germs). I so understand that there seems to be no one to share with who really understands, doesn’t judge, or even wants to listen. I feel so alone, single in marriage. I had so prayed that once he retired from his work (his whole focus) we would be able to build at better and happier relationship. I want to do this walk with him in compassion and love and the way Jesus would want it but feel like I am falling all the time. I used to hear the Lord speak to my heart and feel His presence but not much anymore. He has not gone but I can’t connect with Him. How do I, how does he, how do we “do this journey” till the Lord comes for us and run the race as The Lord would desire me to.

    Thank you for writing these blogs and I will continue to read them and try to gain wisdom and hope, and encouragement to grow in this and carry on, through the Grace of God. Maybe I will find some answers here and support on how to live my life and not die, and be my husband’s caregiver, friend and comfort in this dark valley. I pray Light will come soon and he and we will find a way to live in peace.

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    • Hope you see this, dear lady! I’ve been keeping my nose above water between caregiving and working on building my writing biz. So I’ve neglected this blog for my caregiver friends. Praying for you to always see the Light and know and believe the love God has for you in Christ Jesus. It is my identity in Him that keeps me going.

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