I am in a unique place being a caregiver for my wife during her cancer because I am also a survivor of cancer. In addition, being a pastor, I am in a more public environment and we are blessed with a great church and great friends to help us. But I’ve not found much online to actually help me with being a caregiver. So being a few months into this, I have made a few observations about being the primary caregiver for my wife and helping to support our two teenagers as they cope. I'm not being super-spiritual here, I'm being honest. Here goes...
- Give Yourself Permission to Skip Your Quiet Times.
As a pastor, this is important for me and my inner life. I know Jesus went up the mountain to be alone and it was his habit. Got it. Sometimes you don’t have time. Sometimes you don’t really want to talk with God. You don’t need to make your personal devotional time an idol or an addition to God’s law. So consider my second point...
- Use a Simple Tool.
Most every day I use a set of prayer knots from the Orthodox Tradition to help me pray the Jesus Prayer, and set my pattern for the day even if I miss my quiet time. Kristen Vincent’s, “A Bead and a Prayer,” is a great resource to learn about Protestant prayer beads and how they can be a help. Praying the Lord’s Prayer daily is good too. Try The Upper Room’s Daily Devotion. This may sound opposite of point one but the next point will help explain...
- Give Yourself Permission to Trust Yourself.
You know you. Stay up and watch a movie if you need to do it. Skip that quiet time but also give yourself the option to read a book later in the day or use one of the tools mentioned in point #2. Trust your gut feelings (unless it involves harming yourself or someone else) to be keeping you above water. Take a nap with no apologies for it. You need to do what you need.
- Say Yes to Help that is Sincere.
Some people are sincere in their offer to help. Some aren’t. Can it be hard to know the difference? Sure. Some folks just want to be in on things. When things are tough, time is tight and emotions are running high, take up someone who offers a helping hand. When in doubt, say Yes.
- Say No Nicely
Sometimes you have to say no, so do it, but try to be nice. Say thanks for the offer. Share what you’re comfortable with saying. In the case of receiving meals, we’ve got allergies and my wife’s diet due to cancer is limited. If you’ve got little ones (or big ones), those kids only will eat certain stuff. Tell folks, sincere, well-meaning people will understand (see point #4)
- Share What You (and your family really need).
Kinda like #5, be honest with folks as much as you can as you share what you need and don’t need. I got some offers to clean the yard but at the time, I needed to get outside and work (see #3) a bit. Tell folks you need to be home with your family if you need to do that and tell folks when and if visitors are welcome. With your close friends, be brutally honest. Someone needs to know.
- Keep Active.
You don’t have to join a gym or club. You likely won’t have time for it anyway. A simple goal for movement is to consider taking 7,000 steps a day. Check out www.sparkpeople.com for excercise ideas and also check out youtube as well. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your excercise program, but you need to get going.
I hope this helps someone and if you know someone in this situation, feel free to pass this on!