Posted in Caregiving

We All Suffer

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I’m doing a lot of research about the impact that a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness has on each of us.  It’s not only the person with the diagnosis that’s impacted, but the family (caregiver), friends, work colleagues, etc.  As a caregiver you experience suffering just as the person with the diagnosis suffers.  The outward reason for the suffering may not be the same, you’re not the one directly battling the physical impact of the disease, but you are facing it on the emotional, spiritual, and financial fronts.

The biggest thing for many about suffering is that it’s rooted in separation and isolation.  Suffering often rears its head when you begin to go inward and due to responsibilities as a caregiver begin to withdraw from life as you knew it.  We’ve talked about how a caregiver is like an air traffic controller, trying to coordinate all the activities to care for the patient.  When is there time for connection?  How do you, the caregiver. stay connected.  Connection is probably better than most of the antidepressants on the market (taking the neurochemical imbalance out of the picture).  Connection validates our lives and provides the support when times get rough.

One of the things to consider when you experience suffering is, “What am I actually missing, longing for, or desiring?”  Isolation and separation keep our minds running on overdrive in a circular fashion.  It’s like being on a treadmill unable to get off.  When this happens, you go fast, but you don’t get anywhere.  This effort is unrewarded adding to the despair.

What will you do today to end your suffering?  You can’t eliminate the physical experience of the diagnosis for the patient, but you’ve been doing all along makes them know they are loved and important to you.  How do you know you’re loved and important?  How can you plug back into your life?  I hope you find a way to eliminate the isolaotin and separation.  Feel free to connect to me…write a comment below or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Loss Is Inevitable…Suffering is Optional

When mental health professionals talk about grief they are usually talking about grief in response to death.   It’s the most common form of grief and the most widely acknowledged in our society.  Western culture doesn’t like to talk about death but following the death of a loved one the grief hits and takes center stage in the life of those still alive.

I’m thinking about grief as it relates to loss.  We all experience little deaths throughout our lives that don’t result in our ultimate death.  Loss is inevitable in our lives.  We experience loss from the moment we’re born.  At the time of our birth we leave the safety and warmth of the womb only to be brought into a world that is cold, loud, and overwhelming.  We begin experiencing loss in that moment.  When I think about the progression of life and how and when grief kicks our butt I think of a graph.  Loss is a constant in our lives.  We get hurt, we get sick, we fail a test, our friends move away, etc.  It’s when a major life event intersects with these daily losses that we experience grief.

Think of the day our were diagnosed with your illness.  The intersection of the diagnosis along with all the other stresses creates an emotional and spiritual tsunami.  Our interpretation of the event is what creates the suffering.  It’s our attachment to something we believe we had and deserved that causes our attachment to something that was fleeting all along.

We live lives that are filled with loss.  How we learn to befriend those losses is what determines our level of spiritual stamina.  It’s our ability to understand that loss is part of life and doesn’t detract from all the good things in your life.  The problem comes when we keep trying to fill the holes created by the loss and it’s like filling a hole that has no bottom. 

How do you handle loss?  Are you prone to suffering?  Would you like to change that world view?  Check out the website for more information…http://www.survivingstrong.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Thomas Merton and Suffering

When I stumbled upon the works of Thomas Merton I was amazed at how prolific he was as well as the impact he could have with such a short life.  His is one of the best auto-biographies because it doesn’t follow the time line you would assume from a man considered to be one of the world’s greatest theologians and mystics.

I’m particularly interested in different religions views on suffering because it seems to be part of the process for those facing a health challenge.  The suffering isn’t necessarily physical, although it often is, but emotional and spiritual suffering have to be taken into account when discussing the role suffering plays in our lives.

Merton said, “Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you tryo to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”  That’s a powerful quote and one that seems counter-intuitive to logic.

How could suffering increase the more you try to avoid it?  I’ve been sitting with this for a while and then I just felt this deep sense of sadness.  Suffering increases as you try to avoid it because the avoidance is and of itself suffering.  There is a struggle that gets put into play the moment you try and keep what you think is suffering at arms length.  I know the idea of embracing struggle seems absurd, but by bring it in close you take the wind out of its sails making the situation more manageable.

No one wants to suffer, especially when facing a health challenge.  We each suffer in our own way and that journey of embracing suffering is highly personal.  How will you decrease your level of suffering?  What if you simply redefined what it means to suffer?  How would you face your health challenge differently if the focus were on wellness and healing instead of what you perceive to be the obstacles to wellness.

Bringing your suffering in close allows you to acknowledge how heroic you are on your journey to wellness.  Give yourself every advantage and leave the suffering to the martyrs who believe that suffering pays a dividend…we know better!