How to Deal With Feelings
ARE you currently caring for a seriously ill loved one? If so, you may be experiencing some confusing and frightening emotions. What can you do? Consider the feelings that some caregivers struggle with and the practical suggestions that have helped them cope.
Embarrassment. Occasionally, the behavior of a person who is ill may embarrass you in front of others. But explaining the nature of your loved one’s illness to friends and neighbors may help them to understand and may also move them to show “fellow feeling” and patience. (1 Peter 3:8) If possible, talk to other families who are in a situation similar to yours. You may feel less embarrassed as you exchange experiences. Sue explains what helped her: “I felt such pity for my father—it eclipsed any feelings of embarrassment. And his sense of humor also helped.” Yes, a sense of humor—on the part of the patient and those who care for him—is a marvelous tool to ease jangled nerves.—Compare Ecclesiastes 3:4.
Fear. Ignorance about the disease can be terribly frightening. If possible, seek professional advice on what to expect as the illness progresses. Learn how to provide care under those circumstances. For Elsa, one of the most important factors in coping with her fear was talking with other caregivers and the hospice nurses about what to expect as the patient’s condition deteriorated. Jeanny advises: “Confront and control your fears. Fear of what might happen is often worse than the reality.” Dr. Ernest Rosenbaum recommends that whatever causes them, your fears should “be talked about as they arise.”—Compare Proverbs 15:22.
Grief. It is not easy to deal with grief, particularly in the caregiving situation. You may grieve over the loss of companionship, especially if your sick loved one can no longer talk, understand clearly, or recognize you. Such feelings may not be readily understood by others. Talking about your grief to an understanding friend who will listen patiently and sympathetically can bring much-needed relief.—Proverbs 17:17.
Anger and Frustration. These are normal responses to caring for a seriously ill person whose behavior may be difficult at times. (Compare Ephesians 4:26.) Realize that it is often the disease, not the patient, that is responsible for distressing behavior. Lucy recalls: “When I really got angry, I would end up in tears. Then I would try to remind myself of the patient’s condition and illness. I knew that the patient needed my help. That would help me carry on.” Such insight may ‘slow down your anger.’—Proverbs 14:29; 19:11.
Guilt. Feelings of guilt are common among caregivers. Be assured, though, that you are performing an essential but very difficult job. Accept the fact that you will not always react perfectly in word or in deed. The Bible reminds us: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2; Romans 3:23) Do not allow feelings of guilt to prevent you from taking positive action now. When you feel upset about something you have said or done, you will very likely find that saying “I’m sorry” will make you and your patient feel better. One man who cared for a sick relative advised: “Do the best you can under the circumstances.”
Depression. Depression is very common—and understandable—in families coping with serious illness. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:14.) A caregiver who suffers from depression explains what helped her: “Many would thank us for providing care. Just a few words of encouragement can give you a boost to carry on when you are very tired or depressed.” The Bible states: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down, but the good word is what makes it rejoice.” (Proverbs 12:25) Others may not always sense your need for encouragement. So, at times, you may first have to openly express the “anxious care” in your heart in order to receive “the good word” of encouragement from others. If feelings of depression persist or become more severe, though, it may be advisable to consult a doctor.
Helplessness. You may feel helpless in the face of a debilitating illness. Accept the reality of your situation. Acknowledge your limitations—the patient’s health is not yours to control, but you can provide compassionate care. Don’t expect perfection of yourself, your patient, or your supporters. A balanced approach not only eases feelings of helplessness but also eases the work load. Wisely, many who have cared for a loved one advise: Learn to face one day at a time.—Matthew 6:34.
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“Confront and control your fears. Fear of what might happen is often worse than the reality”
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Encouraging Words From Caregivers
“DON’T be distressed by negative thoughts about yourself. They are normal under such circumstances. Certainly you shouldn’t bottle up your feelings. Confide in someone about how you feel, and if you can, take a break—go away for a while—so that you can feel refreshed.”—Lucy, whose work in a clinic has involved assisting a number of caregivers as well as patients.
“If there are family members or friends who are available and willing, let them help. It is vital that you share the load with others.”—Sue, who nursed her father before he died of Hodgkin’s disease.
“Learn to cultivate a sense of humor.”—Maria, who helped care for a dear friend who died of cancer.
“Keep spiritually strong. Draw close to Jehovah, and pray incessantly. (1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 4:8) He provides help and comfort through his spirit, his Word, his earthly servants, and his promises. Try to be as organized as possible. For example, it helps to make schedules for medicines and rosters for helpers.”—Hjalmar, who cared for his dying brother-in-law.
“Learn all you can about the nature of your patient’s sickness. That, in turn, will help you to know what to expect of the patient and yourself and how to care for your patient.”—Joan, whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease.
“Realize that others have coped before you and that Jehovah can help you cope with whatever happens.”—Jeanny, who took care of her husband before he died.
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To calm your fears, find out as much as you can about the illness
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Talking to an understanding friend can bring much relief