Greetings in Christ,
I had a conversation with a person who had spent the past four years caring for a sick relative. After a long illness, their relative had died earlier this year, and this person was still recovering from loss as well as the emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue that comes with long-term caregiving. If you have been in a similar situation, you know what they were talking about. Being a caregiver is very often an act of love, but it is also demanding. There are hours on the road going to doctors and therapy. There is the constant concern about doing the best you can for the person who is ill.There is the pressure to find the time between work, family commitment and the needed care for the one who is ill. It is not surprising that caregivers often fall ill themselves, become depressed or simply don’t have the energy to do any more than what is needed to get through the day.
The most significant surprise this person discovered was that so many folk thought now that their loved one had died and their care for them at an end, that they should be back to life at 100%. It is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t gone through the experience of long-term caregiving how hard it is even to begin to feel normal. After the caregiving is over, it can take a long while to recover the emotional, spiritual and physical strength that was expended.
It is essential that we give love and support to those who are dealing with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. It is also vital that we do what we can to help their caregivers. Each situation will be different requiring thoughtful and loving questions. If you make an offer of support, follow through. Too many caregivers hear, “Let me know what I can do.” only to discover the offered help wasn’t a serious offer.
Most importantly, once the need for caregiving is passed, remember that those who were the caregivers need time to heal, to become renewed and become strong again. Your love for them, your support, your willingness to give them the space they need will go a long way in helping them move forward.