Walk a while in my shoes

Walk a while in my shoes

I don’t always think of the other person. None of us do. We get so caught up in our own thoughts and feelings that we lose sight of the other persons’ feelings. I was feeling frustrated a few years ago as I tried to take care of all the errands, the pharmacy runs, grocery shopping, keeping vehicles running, and trying to hold onto enough work to pay the bills. Upon finishing one task, I would often find two more immediate needs that had to be taken care of to take the place of the one I had just finished. It was very frustrating. We were dealing with those ulcers that form from pressure sores and my wife was not a happy camper! She had to stay in bed and only lay in certain positions. There is only so much a person can do with a restriction like that.

I tried to provide as much entertainment as possible, but it was rapidly getting her frustrated, too. I made sure she had her computer, plenty of videos and snacks as well as liquids, knowing that it would all be rather inadequate by the end of the day to relieve her boredom. Off to work I would go, all the while worrying about her, wondering if she was alright and generally a bear to live with myself as the stress and frustration continued to build.

It is easy to get into arguments. And it is just as easy to have them drag out for a long time. It really boils down to how we choose to react to each situation that comes up. I would often hear the negatives that were spoken much more clearly that I would hear positives if I chose to do so. And by the same token, if I chose to listen for positive feedback I would notice and hear a lot more positive comments. The direction and type of conversation is always determined by how we react or respond to what is spoken to us.

On one particularly trying day, I was out repairing a cooler fan for a friend and earning some money doing it. He observed that I seemed to be a lot more stressed than I had been in church the previous Sunday. I gave him a rather lengthy description of all the things I was dealing with that week and how I was getting very frustrated with it all.

He broke into my long description of things to remark that he felt sorry for my wife. I paused and let that sink in a moment and then asked him what he meant by that statement.  He answered that if she was having to lay in one position for a long period of time, she probably was as frustrated as I was. Because my friend was a public school administrator, he was well aware of my wife’s teaching career. He pointed out as carefully as he could, (I think he might have thought I was going to react the wrong way) that my wife was used to being up and active and dealing with a classroom of students. He pointed out that she was probably going stir crazy by that time in the afternoon that we were working on his cooler. He then said something I have often heard and just as often lost sight of, which is before you get too hard in judging people, walk a while in their shoes. If someone else had said that I would have thought they did not have a clue what it was like to be a caregiver. But that was not true of my friend. His wife had Alzheimer’s and she was starting to lose ground rather rapidly. He definitely had been in some difficult situations with her mental health deteriorating as it was.

This conversation reinforced something I would often counsel the families of drug addicts to do. I was involved in working with drug addicts and alcoholics to help them get their lives on track and off the addictive chemicals. One principle I would teach the guys I was mentoring was to respond to situations, not react. When we react we tend to blurt out whatever comes to mind first and it is usually the wrong thing to say. But if we respond to what is happening, it means we are tailoring our words and actions to bring resolution. Anger, frustration, hurt feelings, emotional retaliation come out of those reactions that are not thought through carefully. A response is generally going to ease the tension or lighten the mood while a reaction in kind is going to escalate the friction and hurts.

Some principles are obviously good for any married couple or family relation. But when in a caregiver/patient relationship, the failure to understand the other person is going to greatly aggravate the discussions and conversations.

My friend the Police Officer who lost wife, mother and father over a few years to cancer once advised me to consider that the pain and frustration coupled with the inability to move or function normally will be especially difficult for the invalid. He said that as a Police officer, he had been called for domestic disputes. He would be accompanied by a social worker and would go on calls where family members were in loud or even violent arguments. The purpose of the calls of course, was to resolve the conflict before the people did each real harm. He observed that when people were normally active and busy and they found themselves immobilized by an accident or illness, the situation was especially hard for them to endure. Conversely, if a person was a couch potato before they were laid up, there wasn’t as much frustration on the part of the invalid.

Over the last few years, I have been involved in several counseling situations involving a caregiver/patient situation. All of what my two friends pointed out has proven to be true.

My Police officer friend also pointed out several other things that we often don’t realize. That is, we are dealing with someone that is soon losing track of time as we know it. The patient can ask for a bowl of soup and you the caregiver might be moving double quick in getting it ready, but to them you are dragging your feet. This is because a watched clock tells time slower, and a watched pot never boils. I know those are old cliche’s, but the fact is, time drags forever for the invalid confined to the bed, while the caregiver is struggling to fit all the tasks needing to be done into the day. And if you are a working caregiver, and are trying to make a living while caring for an invalid at home you are actually pulling a double header every day.

I often say a prayer of thanksgiving when I think about my wife. She is an artist, she reads, she can do a lot from her bed or wheelchair. Not only that, but she tries to see my side of a situation. I found that communication is key to keep the resentment from building. If you are caring for someone who is coherent and lucid, there is no reason why they should not understand that your world cannot revolve around them 100% of the time. However, for those who refuse to see your side, there is really not much you can do about it. It goes back to reacting or responding again. What you do with that reality will be what determines your thought for the day, your dominant feeling and your general outlook on life.

There are many issues that are manifesting in the care of an invalid. But one thing we often don’t recognize is the fear the patient is feeling. Surprised? Don’t be! It is a very real issue for the patient receiving care.

Twenty-five years ago, I had a chemical accident on a job I was doing. For a period of time I was hospitalized and on life support. As I got well enough to communicate with the doctors and nurses in the hospital, I asked that my family would be contacted. When the nurse placed the call to my wife, she made it clear she was not interested in carrying on the marriage if I was so sick. Her last words to me were, “I did not marry you to watch you die. You will never see me or your children again.”  The doctors next contacted my parents, and my dad said I would be fine, that all I needed was time to heal, but he did not want to take the time to come and visit or offer even to talk on the phone. That changed my perspective on things dramatically, I can assure you! But the fact is, whether we like to think about it or not, whether we like it or not, we fear being left alone. So again, walk a while in their shoes. The person you are caring for may be an older family member. But when you look around, the only person you see is the one looking back at you in the mirror. There may be aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters and other relatives close by. But you see very little help. Our reaction? We dwell on the fact and think about the fact that we are the responsible one, the lone caregiver and provider of services to the patient. We only see and think of what we are feeling.

What do you think mom or aunt or dad or uncle or grandparent feels? They too see only you. They too are aware of the number of people in the family. It might not come to mind for them right away, but sooner or later, the thought will occur to them that you might abandon them. That thought will grow into an oversized fear very quickly if you start getting short tempered. Then the real friction starts. As you get short tempered or frustrated, the patient gets more fearful. Responses are replaced with reactions. Tempers flare, Feelings get hurt, and things are said that cannot be erased from the other person’s memory. Trust begins to erode. You can easily find yourself locked in an uneasy truce that is only peaceful because you are both to fearful or tired to fight.

Looking at the memories again, I said before that the chemical poisoning accident I had was twenty-five years ago. But one of the things that happened was that I had a very difficult time trusting caregivers, therapists, doctors and medical personnel. I still do have trust issues. Things that happen like a family member rejecting you or walking out on you will cut deep and leave a bruise on the soul that can take years to heal. When it came to family, my reaction was that if my own wife didn’t want me, why would anyone else? I stayed with friends for several years. At first, I needed a lot of TLC. My body had been badly damaged. The chemical that I was exposed to had a deadly effect on nerves. I went for eleven years before I could feel my fingertips again. Because the chemical was a solvent based product, something as routine and simple as pumping gasoline into my vehicle could trigger a reaction so severe that I would find myself waking up in a hospital again.

Fear is a real issue in the patient’s mind. The patient knows that you are walking and mobile. They know they are taking your time. They know you are not out there living life like you would if they were not in your care. So the other enemy in their mind is an often overwhelming feeling of guilt. There is really nothing you can do about that. The fact is, it will be there. Both of those enemies to your relationship will be there. Fear and guilt.

On your part, the enemy is going to be the frustration and resentment. At least with some. Honestly, when I cared for my wife at first, I was proving to myself that I was not selfish like I saw my ex-wife as. That kind of crusade loses it’s appeal and warm fuzzy feeling fast.  But my wife became my wife because I fell in love with her. Because I loved her I married her. I challenged myself to express my love for her in everything we did together. I would look for ways to do things so that she would see that I was a willing participant in her life rather than a reluctant resentful partner. It is harder to live that way when bills are piling up, vehicles are barely hanging together, medical supplies are eating every spare penny and it is hard to set a schedule because of ever recurring health issues. But we do schedule date nights. Something that can be as simple as reading together, watching a DVD together or playing around with artwork. The point is to do things that are family and friendship building rather than just the constant caregiver/patient interactions.

I was talking to a friend just a few hours ago before starting this article, and I told him that at the point that I go to the mailbox and the medical bills with the dozens of fees, copays and charges total in the hundreds of thousands, that a person has to realize that the important thing is not what is happening, but how we are going through it. I don’t mean that in a fatalistic way, although it is not a very long step down into frustration, fatalism, despair, and depression. But what I mean is that you will not pay a bill or charge at the ER any faster by allowing it to overwhelm your mind with worry. But we can make our life, our living, our day to day existence infinitely brighter and more joyful just by concentrating on the truly important things that are eternal. I noticed that my wife can handle a huge amount of stress, fear, and doubt when she knows she is cherished, loved, and wanted. But if I am distant, short tempered, or noncommittal, she gets agitated far quicker when dealing with doctors, nurses, and medical staff. Whatever feeling we are allowing to dominate us is going to eventually affect our relationship with the patient.

I noticed that my wife can handle a huge amount of stress, fear, and doubt when she knows she is cherished, loved, and wanted. But if I am distant, short tempered, or noncommittal, she gets agitated far quicker when dealing with doctors, nurses, and medical staff.

One thing that made a huge difference for us was acquiring a dog. This is not for everyone of course, but for those who are able, a pet is often a stabilizer in the home. The attached picture is not a photo of Benji, but of another dog acquired earlier. We have a Schnauzer that is almost blind but very well trained. Benji, (I know! We didn’t think too hard to name him that!) has been a great source of comfort for my wife and has provided hours of entertainment for all of the family. Getting a pet is often a good thing, but having a pet that greatly increases your workload is not a good thing at all. So choose wisely. I know of several families in our area that have a lapdog or cat in the household to give the patient comfort and companionship. One lady I built a ramp for and remodeled the bathroom in her home is a cat lover. She has two cats that are absolutely convinced that they are the owners and she is the pet. But the fact is, they are able to get close and snuggle and she feels and has comfort from that. In spite of the fact that many family members live nearby, she seldom sees them and the only person she does see on a regular basis is a nurse caregiver from an In-home Patient Care agency. Her cats have taken on the personalities and there is a very real bond and comfort in that situation. The huge benefit for her is that because the two cats are litter box trained, they are extremely low maintenance. The only real cost is a sack of dry cat food once a month in the grocery shopping.

The death of any relationship is when the practical demands and needs completely replace the tender, familial, friendship based, love based feelings and attention. One of the contributors to the breakdown of the relationship occurs when all the patients’ acquaintances are reduced to medical staff and you, the primary caregiver.

I cared for a Korean War vet over thirty years ago and our relationship was made much easier because he had friends and former co-workers who would come and play checkers and Backgammon with him which would give me some time to rest and take care of me. I didn’t always leave, because I liked those old men who came over every few days. They would joke and kid around and swap stories and tall tales about fish they caught or elk or deer hunts and sometimes they would talk about their part in wars. They were not always talking of happy things, for memories of fighting in the Korean war were not pretty, but they were closer as friends than most families I have seen. The bond and support they gave to each other was more valuable than words can describe.

Again, if the patient you are caring for, sees only you and the medical staff, the patient may get rather reclusive, withdrawn or belligerent. Since you are the only one there, you will bear the brunt of all those bitter feelings they harbor in their heart.

But regardless of the situation you are in, if you do not get some time for yourself to recover and restore from time to time, you will burn out. It is essential that you take care of yourself so that you are able to care for your patient.

I am going to add this last point as a pastor as well as a caregiver. The people who are able to fellowship in a church or synagogue every week weather the storms of caregiving much better than those who do not have a place to go and just sit and soak in some brain and heart food. It is never good to be continuously alone and isolated.

Advice from Captain Awkward

Advice from Captain Awkward

A question posed to Captain Awkward the other day sounded very familiar:

Dear Captain Awkward,

One year ago my father passed away. It was a several year battle against cancer that he eventually lost, and I still miss him deeply.

My mother has struggled in the aftermath. She has been overwhelmed with loneliness and sank into a depression. She loved my father deeply and he was her rock, both emotionally and in a more practical sense (bills, caretaking, house upkeep).

Lately she has struggled more deeply because a chronic pain issue flared up. She has been to numerous doctor appointments, tried multiple medications and treatments, with no improvements. The medications make her groggy and confused, and she has been having trouble sleeping on top of everything. It seems like her life is a waking nightmare.

I love my mom very much, but I am struggling with how to help her. I am an only child, and we have few extended family members – none she feels she can rely on. She has friendships, but does not trust her friends easily/well and has withdrawn lately because she is too exhausted to reach out. She usually rejects the idea of outside/paid help and feels very vulnerable.

My relationship with her has always had some tension. She is a wonderful mom and a caring person, but our personalities have always clashed. She has always needed more from me than I felt capable of giving, but that need has grown immense and my ability to help her has, if anything, decreased. My own life has been challenging – a stressful new job, a wonderful-but-complicated marriage, and grieving for my father.

I try to visit as often as I feel can, have offered help in various forms, but visits are filled with her lamenting that she doesn’t have anyone to help, and my offers of help are turned down more often than not because they aren’t the right ‘kind’ of help (she has rigid parameters and a deep need for control). Her control issues are also triggering for me, because control issues are something that I struggle with as well.

I have always found visits with my mom draining, and even more so now in this acute time. Every interaction with my mother has the ability to send me into my own tailspin, but setting boundaries makes me feel incredibly guilty in the face of her deep need – and the fact that she is a good person and mother.

How can I navigate this tricky balance? How can I help my mom without losing myself in her bottomless pit of need? How can I maintain my own mental health without feeling like the worst daughter ever?


Sound like your life? Read the Captain’s response here.

Cut stress in 15-minutes with these mindfulness techniques

Cut stress in 15-minutes with these mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness has ancient religious roots, but today it’s become a largely secular practice that’s been demonstrated to relieve stress, improve attention and memory, and reduce blood pressure.

Source: Fix.com. View the original post.

Nicola Brown

Nicola Brown is passionate about travel, food, digital media, and psychology. An award-winning writer and communication consultant, she is owner and principal of Think Forward Communication and Editor-in-chief at AnewTraveller.com

Ways of grieving: Ade Justus

Ways of grieving: Ade Justus

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. Today we’re speaking to Ade Justus of Righteousness of God Ministries, an Apostolic Christian church.

What does your faith teach about happens to people when their lives end?

My faith is based on the bible and here’s what the bible teaches about people when their life ends. Bible says after death is judgment. We believe there is life after death, so when a man dies, he is going to face the judgment of God based on how he spent his life. If he died in righteousness there is hope of eternity, but if otherwise he will face eternal condemnation.

How do clergy comfort the dying? How do lay people comfort the dying?

Clergy comforts the dying, based on the knowledge, believe and faith of the individual. Jesus said that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. So the best way to comfort the dying is to let them know that, they will be welcomed into eternal bliss by the virtue of what Jesus has accomplished for them on the cross, and by personal experience with Jesus.

The bible provides a way for lay people to comfort the dying. They can come in agreement in prayer with the person and follow what the bible says in James 5:13-16.That is the best way to comfort them.

How do members of the community traditionally respond to the death of one of their members?

The response of one community defer from another, it depends on the community you belong to. It is a mixture of different faith, so all have different ways to respond to death. But there is no better way to respond than to console one other and show each other the love of Christ.

Is there a service to memorialize the dead? What is it like?

There is no service to memorialize the dead in the New Testament. But some churches hold such services.

What rituals of mourning are there in your faith?

There are no rituals of mourning in my faith based on the New Testament.

Is there a particular amount of time allocated for grieving?

There is no time allocated for grieving, it’s all about the grace to let go of what has happened and understand what bible said about the dead, that we shall still meet again in heaven. So we can grieve for a while and then rejoice because we know we’ll meet them again and also thank God for a life well lived.

What text or passage would you suggest to a member of your faith community who is grieving?

The text for those that grieving are 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.

What words would you share to comfort members of our community who may be mourning?

The word to comfort member of the community mourning is to let them know the bible regards death as sleeping, and that we have hope of seeing those that are dead again in eternity, 1Thessalonalns 4:13-18.

Is there a tradition from your faith that might be comforting for people of other faiths?

We have no tradition but salvation. Believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ is comfort enough for the people of our faith.

Coloring: Not just for kids

Coloring: Not just for kids

Coloring is a fantastic way to relax and have a little fun. I’m pretty sure I found a coloring book for everyone…except the rare person who doesn’t like coloring books.

Color to relax

Creative Coloring Inspirations

Create your own affirmations and inspirational quote images as you complete this book – and then hang them where they can continue to motivate you.

Color Me Stress-Free

This Zen coloring book is designed to help you relieve tension and avoid burnout. What more could we ask for?

Stress Relieving Patterns

Completing these beautifully intricate patterns will give you something relaxing to focus on.

Really Relaxing Natural Wonders

Switch off your mind and lose yourself to the patterns of nature.

Dream Catcher: Mindfulness

These illustrations aim to be a therapeutic part of mindfulness art therapy.

Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book

Channel your creativity while focusing on these detailed patterns, with each section for a different color palette.

Color to learn

The Art of Nature

These images have been adapted from 18th and 19th century scientific prints.

The Anatomy Coloring Book

This one’s a classic. I’ll admit that my dad got this for me when I was little, but it’s fun (and fascinating) for anyone of any age.

The Geography Coloring Book

Tired of dealing with bodies? Explore the world instead. It’s amazing to realize just how big the world is – and it makes the news a lot more interesting when you recognize all of those places they’re talking about.



Outside the Lines: An Artists’ Coloring Book for Giant Imaginations

Here’s the chance to reinterpret over 100 illustrations from famous animators, cartoonists, musicians, and fine artists.

Off-the-wall coloring books

The Zombie Apocalypse

Go beyond mindfulness to mindlessness with the walking dead.

Unicorns Are Jerks

Who knew?

Color Me Swoon

This is a “beefcake activity book” – for those of you who need to take a break from deep thoughts and enjoy some coloring eye-candy instead.

Fat Ladies in Space: A Body-Positive Coloring Book

Sci-fi heroines doing what they do best.

Niche-market coloring books

For the graffiti artist

For the one who really likes owls


For someone who loves tattoos


For the one who’s obsessed with cars

For someone who wants to see angels

For the hiker


For the indie rocker

For the historian

For the architect

For the hip hop fan

For your mom

Happy coloring!

coloring-books that are not for kids

Ways of grieving: Reverend Leanna K. Fuller

Ways of grieving: Reverend Leanna K. Fuller

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. The Reverend Dr. Leanna Fuller is assistant professor of pastoral care at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is a member of the United Church of Christ, a mainline Protestant denomination.

What does Christianity teach about what happens to people when their lives end?

First, it’s important to recognize that Christianity is a very broad tradition that includes quite a bit of variation in belief and practice around particular topics such as death and dying. However, I think it’s fair to say that Christians typically affirm that when we die, we enter fully into God’s presence, and that we are held eternally in God’s love and care. Often people talk about this in terms of “heaven,” though individual Christians or streams of the tradition may differ on what exactly heaven will be like. Still, most all Christians would agree that when our earthly bodies die, we go to be with God.

How do clergy comfort the dying? How do lay people comfort the dying?

Within the Protestant tradition, the ways that clergy and lay people comfort the dying are, for the most part, quite similar, as we believe pastoral care is work to which all the people of God are called (not only the ordained). Both clergy and lay people might comfort the dying by sharing passages of Scripture with them, praying with and for them and their families, offering practical assistance (such as cooking meals) to families who are caring for dying persons, and simply assuring the dying person that he or she is held by the love of God and that God is present with him or her at every step of the dying process.

How do members of the community traditionally respond to the death of one of their members?

Many Christian communities respond to the death of their members by having a time of visitation with the family very soon after the death (either at the funeral home, at the church, or at the family’s residence); a funeral or memorial service within the days or weeks following the death; and then follow-up care farther into the future, including calling or sending cards to the bereaved family members, visiting the bereaved and offering food or other practical assistance to them, and occasionally having formal times of remembrance for members who have died within the context of the community’s regular worship services.

Is there a service to memorialize the dead? What is it like?

Christian communities vary in the particular ways in which they memorialize the dead, but most have some type of funeral or memorial service that they offer in the days or weeks following someone’s passing. Depending on the community’s particular tradition, these services will include some or all of the following: Scripture readings, prayers, music, a short homily (sermon), one or more eulogies (remembrances of the deceased shared either by the presiding minister and/or by the deceased’s loved ones), and rituals surrounding the committal of the body or ashes.

What rituals of mourning are there in your faith?

The primary ritual of mourning in most Christian communities is the funeral or memorial service. Beyond that, other rituals of mourning might include a time each year when all members of the congregation who have died in the previous 12 months are remembered in a special way during worship (many congregations do this at All Saints’ Day), or in some traditions it is customary for bereaved family members to wear particular kinds of clothing (only black and white, for example) for a set period of time after their loved one’s death.

Is there a particular amount of time allocated for grieving?

The tradition itself doesn’t set a particular amount of time for grieving. Unfortunately, the broader culture in the United States seems to be quite impatient with the grieving process and expects people to be “done” with it in a very short time (for instance, most employers only offer 3 days for bereavement leave, no matter what type of loss it is.) So, many Christian communities may have inadvertently absorbed this attitude and may feel anxious for bereaved members in their midst to stop grieving and “move on,” when, in fact, most contemporary research on grief suggests that grief never really ends. Instead, it usually changes in intensity over time, but the person who has suffered the loss will probably never be quite the same again, and will have to learn how to create a “new normal” for him- or herself.

grief changes you

What text or passage would you suggest to a member of your faith community who is grieving?

Some of the common passages I have used at funerals or with bereaved persons include Psalm 23, Psalm 121, John 14:1-4, and Revelation 21:1-4.

What words would you share to comfort members of our community who may be mourning?

As a pastoral caregiver, I am aware that no words, no matter how eloquent or powerful, can take away another’s pain. However, I do think that assuring people of God’s presence with and love for them can be extremely comforting in times of grief. I also try to find ways to share my commitment to be present with the bereaved – to assure them that I will be there for them if they need someone to listen or to sit with them in their pain. As I often tell my students, “Most people won’t remember what you said to them; but they’ll remember that you were there.”

Is there a tradition from your faith that might be comforting for people of other faiths?

I can’t really think of anything specific – other than having the community of the faithful gather around the bereaved and hold them up with love, prayers, and other signs of support. I imagine that most people of other faiths already do this in some way, but I’m reminded that very often, bereaved people have told me that it was the love and support of their faith communities that helped them to get through the most intense moments of their grief.

The Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.), Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div.), and Furman University (B.A.). Her dissertation is titled “When Christ’s Body is Broken: Anxiety, Identity, and Conflict in Congregations.” Fuller has earned numerous fellowships, awards, and honors. She received the Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship in 2010-2011 and multiple graduate teaching fellowships from Vanderbilt. Fuller’s most recent conference paper, “Anxiety, Emotions, and Encounters with Difference” was presented at the Academy of Religious Leadership Annual Meeting. Her ministry experience includes serving as associate pastor of Oakland Christian Church in Suffolk, Va., where she coordinated youth ministry and Christian education programming. Fuller also worked as chaplain resident at Riverside Regional Medical Center, in Newport News, Va., providing pastoral care for patients. Fuller’s family includes her spouse, the Rev. Scott Fuller, a UCC minister and chaplain; and their 3-year-old son, Simon.

Mourning in anticipation of the loss

Mourning in anticipation of the loss

You are there listening to the doctor tell you and your loved one that they have a fixed amount of time to live. If you are lucky they can stretch it out somewhat with medication, therapy, hospice care or a few other options. Going home the mind plays the scene over and over. Going through the daily tasks the futility of the whole list of chores continues to rear up and mock you. You might not realize it at the time of the death sentence pronounced by the doctor, but you have already begun to mourn the loss of the person you care for. Whether a paid care provider or a family caregiver, you are anticipating the loss and death of the person. It colors everything that you do from that point on. It lurks in the back of the mind and sometimes at the most inconvenient moment, the tears come. Not that there is a convenient time to break down. There is always something that needs to be addressed immediately, if not sooner. But there it is.

an image of the authorI have found myself in that place a few times. Then as if by a God sent miracle my lover is given a new grip and an extension on life. The first time that it happened was definitely the toughest time. It was hard to comprehend that a seemingly minor infection could threaten kidneys and internal organs so quickly and threaten brain damage due to high fevers. The feeling of helplessness is always along for the ride. So too, the depression and anxiety that stems from worrying about whether you are dressing the wounds properly, the fear of introducing another infection or bacteria into an open wound, and the constant waking to check and make sure that you hear that slow gentle rhythmic breathing that indicates everything is still okay during the sleep time.

This is a feeling and condition that you cannot explain or properly describe to friends, other family members, or church members. It is a place that feels so lonely that even though you are surrounded by doctors, nurses, possibly church members and pastor’s staff, you feel completely alone and solitary. You wonder if anyone understands. If anyone wants to understand.

So what do you do? How do you handle the stress, the fear of loss, the doubts and the anxiety? How do you handle the feeling of isolation and loneliness? The fact is, most people don’t handle it very well if at all. The largest obstacle, the biggest enemy is the chronic or clinical depression that settles in your heart, mind and soul, that overwhelming sense of defeat and futility that so envelopes your mind and feelings that you are on auto-pilot. Not really thinking anymore but just going through the motions. This is a very dangerous place to be. Depression shuts down our ability to see things clearly and rationally. This is where mistakes can be fatal. And if not fatal, they can be costly in time lost and financial costs too.

I have been a caregiver to more than one person in my working life. Early in the time I lived in Albuquerque, NM I took a year off from all work and efforts in ministry and cared for one of my closest friends. Ervin had melanoma Carcinoma. He had tumors forming in his body so quickly that the medical staff treating him could not keep up. One tumor on his shoulder ballooned so rapidly that it looked like a second head sprouting from his shoulder next to his head. Two others formed in his brain cavity and pushed his skull into a different shape as they grew. Still others formed in and on other parts of his body. He was given massive doses of pain killers to keep him from suffering. He refused to take them. He would only take enough to deaden the worse of the pain.

Ervin had been a member of a church I had pastored the previous year. For the entire nearly four years I was in that pulpit Ervin would come and sit in church and during the week he would invite me to come to his restaurant in a neighboring town to eat on his tab. He often said while he was slowly dying before my eyes, that he wanted me to get the mourning out of the way so we could talk of the really important stuff. We often sat into the night talking of science, theology, creationism versus evolution, construction practices, politics and a wide range of other topics.  We both read extensively and we both saw that we could always learn more. We would be in the middle of a conversation and he would interrupt with a reminder that he didn’t have long to live, so get to the point of the conversation. He said he wanted us to say our last words about him when he was alive, because when he was dead he wouldn’t be there to hear what we had to say. He thought it important to make sure that peace was made with everyone before he left us.

He asked me to watch over his wife and family during his final days. It was assumed he would be out of his mind with pain by the time he passed, but he was not. He was alert and coherent right up to the moment when he stopped breathing in my arms as I transferred him from the bed to his wheelchair. One moment he was talking about the drudgery of going to doctors and the next moment he took a deep breath and died. This was a new experience for me, to be there at the very end holding a friend when he slipped into eternity. But it was the most peaceful of all the times I have dealt with funerals. I arranged for his funeral on behalf of his family. We held it in the First Baptist Church in downtown Albuquerque. I expected some friction from family members because not all of them got along so well, but the funeral went very smoothly, and afterward, even family members who did not get along with one another were at peace.

This was a huge contrast with other caregiving situations where no one acknowledged the impending death of the invalid. I saw not only the danger of depression at that point but of denial too. Denial is so much more difficult to overcome. By it’s very nature, denial is a refusal to see or accept reality. Mourning is so much more difficult and deeper and has a much greater negative effect on the family. I have heard quite a few people over the years lay claim to a miracle. I have heard people espouse the virtues of positive thinking. I have heard people cling to statements by doctors that there might be a breakthrough and new medicine to combat the issue. I have also noticed that the people who hold on to unrealistic expectations when confronted with reality are deeply disappointed and very defeated and depressed after the invalid passes.

For the people who are in Bible-based, Baptist, or Word-based churches, death is not a terrible end to a life. It is a transition, a stepping through the veil to a new life and body that will never grow old or hurt. Of the last four funerals I have attended that were honoring church members who were friends, the theme has been one of celebration for the departed, that they have received their reward. They are no longer suffering, their pain is over, their race is run and they have inherited the crown of life. We do not mourn as others do who have no hope, and even though we miss the physical presence of the departed we know that one day we will meet again and be forever joyful. When we mourn, we mourn that we could not have done more, could not have shared more and we are reminded that we are all going to pass and so we try to live a life that will convince people around us of the hope we have.

When we mourn, we mourn that we could not have done more, could not have shared more and we are reminded that we are all going to pass and so we try to live a life that will convince people around us of the hope we have.

Our funerals are celebrations of the life lived by a friend or family member. We share the good times we had together, the challenges overcome, and the obstacles removed from our paths.

My mother passed away in 2008. Her heart had been under a strain for at least a year. She had lived through some terrible accidents in the past, and she was ready to go home. One night she asked me while being cared for at my brother’s house if I thought it would be okay if she could go home to Heaven. I told her it was okay and to answer Him when He came for her with a yes. When she passed on, my sister in law Kathy, told me that she asked her the same thing and then just said okay when Kathy told her to go ahead. She was assured that her children were well and would not be abandoned (A mother to her children to the very end) and Kathy said she just went home.

Religion does not give that perfect peace. There are many religions in the world that demand that the subjects die for their god. But many doctors I have talked with assure me that the great majority of people who go to their final rest peacefully sometimes gladly and eagerly are people who have a relationship with God. That I think is the greatest help in the passing of a loved one who has required caregiving. There is a knowing that there is a rest, a place of peace waiting. Mourning is greatly magnified by fear of the unknown and the sense of total loss. But as an ordained pastor/evangelist, I can assure my listeners, that we are not hopeless, we are not helpless, we are not alone, we are not going to destruction, but we are entering perfect peace. Those who do not have this hope in themselves wrestle with huge and overwhelming fears of the unknown and the finality of it all. One particular doctor who had witnessed numerous deaths in the hospital that he worked often said that the patient would suddenly express awareness of Heaven or of angels and some would say the name of Jesus with such peace and joy that he would be greatly affected by the emotion.

So for us who are with one another in fellowship, in worship of God, in the Bible based Christian fellowships, Death is a graduation. Mourning is not the same for us. It is an experience that is part of living. Just a step into the next life and for those of us who are alive and remain we have a great anticipation to join them who have passed one day.

Interesting facts about anxiety disorders and 7 ways to cope

Interesting facts about anxiety disorders and 7 ways to cope

Anxiety disorder is a common mental illness that affects many people worldwide. Seeking help is important in order to encourage and maintain a healthy life. You can do this by building important relationships, visiting a psychologist, and being gentle with yourself. One of the best techniques of dealing with anxiety is to relax and breathe, reminding yourself that everything is going to be okay. Believe it or not, well known people suffer from anxiety, such as the singer Adele and the actress Whoopi Goldberg. Remember that you or anyone you may know who suffers from anxiety can get through this.

Surprising Facts About Anxiety Disorders � 7 Ways to Cope

Ways of grieving: Dr. Angelo Volandes

Ways of grieving: Dr. Angelo Volandes

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. Angelo Volandes, M.D., practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and is on faculty at Harvard Medical School. He is an advocate for patients and families and the author of  The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care, about how people can empower themselves to get the right medical care at the right time and on their terms.

What does your faith teach about happens to people when their lives end?

In the Greek Orthodox Tradition, Greek words used in the Bible often influence our understanding of belief. For example, the word “asleep” is from the New Testament word koimaomai, which gives us the word cemetery. As a young person in the church, I often understood death to be a person sleeping: metaphorically they are no longer in their bodies but that does not mean they don’t exist. Rather, they exist in another world, no longer struggling with the cares and issues of this world


How do clergy comfort the dying? How do lay people comfort the dying?

I think one of the most powerful acts that clergy and lay people offer to the dying is to read prayers and hymns. This simple act reminds people that this earthly existence is temporary and that mortality is a fact of our existence.

How do members of the community traditionally respond to the death of one of their members?

The memorial service is participatory. The entire community chants in response to the hymns chanted by the priest. I think this is a powerful means by which the community comforts the family and celebrates the memory of the departed.

Is there a service to memorialize the dead? What is it like?

The Greek Orthodox service for the dead includes prayers for the departed, as well as prayers to comfort the living. Many of the themes of these hymns refer to our own limits and mortality in this world. All the prayers and hymns are chanted with Byzantine music, which is simultaneously mournful and consoling.

What rituals of mourning are there in your faith?

The memorial service is performed on the day of death, as well as the third day after, the ninth day, the fortieth day, three months, six months, and the first anniversary. This cycle of mourning allows the community to both celebrate and remember the departed.

Is there a particular amount of time allocated for grieving?

Grieving is allowed for about a year.

What text or passage would you suggest to a member of your faith community who is grieving?

I am an image of Your ineffable glory, though I bear the scars of my transgressions. On Your creation, Master, take pity and cleanse me by Your compassion. Grant me the homeland for which I long and once again make me a citizen of Paradise.
Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.
Give rest, O God, to Your servant, and place him (her) in Paradise where the choirs of the Saints and the righteous will shine as the stars of heaven. To Your departed servant give rest, O Lord, and forgive all his (her) offenses.

What words would you share to comfort members of our community who may be mourning?

I think the process of mourning takes times. The beauty of the memorial service in Easter Orthodoxy is that it occurs over the course of a one year cycle, allowing the family to mourn the loss while recognizing that the departed exists in a place apart from our earthly toils.

Is there a tradition from your faith that might be comforting for people of other faiths?

Listening to the Byzantine chants of Eastern Orthodoxy is powerful. The music is simultaneously mournful and hopeful, reflecting the pain of death but remembering that it is the start of a greater existence.

Angelo Volandes is a physician, writer, and patients’ rights advocate. He practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and is on faculty at Harvard Medical School. He is Co-Founder and President of Advance Care Planning (ACP) Decisions, a non-profit foundation implementing systems and technologies to improve the quality of care delivered to patients in the health care system. He is the author of the new book The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care, about how people can empower themselves to get the right medical care at the right time and on their terms.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, he was educated at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. He lectures widely across the country, and spends his time in Massachusetts with his wife Aretha Delight Davis, MD, JD and their two daughters.

The Velveteen Rabbi: Preparing for a funeral in all four worlds

The Velveteen Rabbi: Preparing for a funeral in all four worlds

Image source: Kol ALEPH

Image source: Kol ALEPH

When I hear news of a death, I feel as though I’m clicking into a higher gear. Life gets faster, details sharper. Everything extraneous falls away. On a practical level (in the world of assiyah) there are so many things which need to be decided: when will the funeral be held? How many nights of shiva does the family wish to observe? Is the obituary drafted, have family members been notified…?

On an emotional level (in the world ofyetzirah) there’s a heightened sense of awareness. It’s as though a sense-organ which usually lies dormant has been wakened. How do the family members seem to be feeling? What does this seem to be like for them, what do they need from me, how can I be there for them? And then there’s my own emotional landscape: what is this awakening in me? I file that away to be considered at a later time.

Intellectually (in the world of briyah) there’s the task of writing the hesped, the eulogy. The goal is to write something meaningful, something which gives a sense for the life which has now ended. The hesped needs to tell stories. It needs to feel real. And it needs to be utterly transparent: this isn’t about me as a writer, not about my oratory skills or turns of phrase. It’s about the life I’m trying to honor as best I can. My job is to get out of the way.

Spiritually (in the world of atzilut), all of those things intermingle. Death is a doorway into the unknown, a brush with Mystery. I think of it as returning to the Cosmic Source from which we came, like drops of water — having spent a lifetime falling in slow motion over the waterfall as individual droplets — rejoining the mighty rush of the river. But it’s one thing to say that, and another thing to really face the fact that a life has come to its end, that a soul has gone beyond where we can reach.

The physical world, the emotional world, the intellectual world, the spiritual world. These four worlds are hinted-at, say the kabbalists, in the four letters of God’s holiest Name. Those same letters can be mapped on to the human form. Each of us is an expression of that Name. Each of us contains worlds within us. When someone dies, their unique manifestation of those worlds returns to its Source. We are all reflections of that Name; in that sense we are all the same. And we’re also all different.

One of my favorite text from Talmud speaks about how God is greater than Caesar. Because when Caesar puts his image, his likeness, on every coin in the realm they all look identical. But when God puts God’s image, God’s likeness, on every human being we are all different. (Rabbi Arthur Waskow has written beautifully about this: God & Caesar – the Image on the Coin.) We are each a facet of God’s image; all alike, because we all contain a holy spark — and all different, because God is infinite.

When the body’s life has ended, the soul returns to the One from Whom it came. From the finitude of a single human body and a single human consciousness, to the infinity of our Source. I believe that there is no suffering on the “other side.” I believe that all of our human hurts and fears melt away as we rejoin Infinity. And I know that no matter what I believe about what happens after death, right now my faith isn’t as important as my obligation to try to tend to and care for those who grieve.

This post was originally published on the Velveteen Rabbi Blog. Image source: Kol ALEPH.

image of the velveteen rabbiRabbi Rachel Barenblat was ordained as a rabbi by ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal in 2011. In 2012, she received a second ordination from ALEPH as a mashpi’ah ruchanit (spiritual director.) She has served Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA, since July 2011. She has served as a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow and participated in a retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders.

Her poetry books include 70 Faces: Torah poemsWaiting to Unfold, and Open My Lips, is forthcoming from Ben Yehuda Press. She is the author of several poetry chapbooks, among them What Stays (Bennington Writing Seminars Alumni Chapbook Series, 2002), Through (2009), a self-published collection of poems chronicling the experience of miscarriage and healing, and chaplainbook (laupe house press, 2006), a collection of poems arising out of hospital chaplaincy work.

She blogs at velveteenrabbi.com. In April of 2008, TIME named Velveteen Rabbi one of their top 25 blogs in their first annual blog index.

Organizing for mindfulness

Organizing for mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is something I have to do and remind myself of daily. But the real avenue that has allowed me to learn mindfulness and put it into practice, is being organized.

Being organized is my key to unlock mindfulness.

I think that when you are bogged down by chaos, by disorder, by little details that you just can’t seem to get a handle on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to get frustrated. And those feelings get in the way of learning and practicing mindfulness.

For me, having a plan written down and having systems in place are essential. I have systems for my work, for meal planning, for kids’ therapy, for every small task that has to be done.

These little bits of organization liberate me.

They make it possible to focus on the moment at hand without worrying about dinner, or phone calls I need to make, or bills that need to get paid. Not worrying, just getting it done. Focusing on the moment.

I get overwhelmed too, but not by the small details. I have methods of filing papers and not having them piled everywhere. I can find what I need in my home and on my computer when I need it. I am rarely searching for small details, like a recipe, a file, an email, to get the big things done.

Get the big things done.

When you have those organizing tools in place, and the organized habits, you really can focus on the most important things. Your work, your family and your own happiness. Not that happiness comes easy. Bliss takes work. But I use organizing tools and habits to take the anxiety out of the little details. Tools to help me practice mindfulness. An organized life directly leads to a more mindful life, a more blissful life.

This article was originally published on Back to Bliss.

Adrienne Sweat grew up in Boston as the oldest of 8 kids. Her mother is an expert organizer and her father is a software developer and entrepreneur. She’s the mother of two kids with autism. She moved to Utah for college and stayed for a decade. While in Utah she served as a caregiver to her disabled mother-in-law. This has given her a wealth of experience in research, homeschooling, special meal plans, chore charts, and family schedules. Today she is a single mom living in Vancouver. You can learn more about her at Back to Bliss.
Ways of grieving: Reverend Beverly Molander

Ways of grieving: Reverend Beverly Molander

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. Reverend Beverly Molander is affiliated with The Church of Religious Science and is the co-author of Heartfelt Memorial Services: Your Guide for Planning Meaningful Funerals, Celebrations of Life, and Times of Remembrance.

What does The Church of Religious Science teach happens to people when their lives end?

The physical part of life on earth ends, however our spirit/soul continues on its journey. Life cannot be destroyed; however the form it takes can change. We don’t talk about the ‘afterlife” because life continues after physical death. Whether we see it or not, it still exists. On the physical, worldly side, we also say that the spirit of a loved one lives on in the hearts and minds of those who were touched by that person — the impact of the person can be felt for generations to come.

Reverend Beverly Molander

How do you, as a Reverend, comfort the dying?

Compassion is the key. The most important gesture we can give is to honor the dying person by providing what is needed and required at the moment. With some, it is being a silent presence. For others (and with their request or approval), prayer is appropriate. Sometimes, readjusting the light blanket and smoothing it out is a loving gesture that would be appreciated. If the person wants to chat and reminisce, sip some refreshing water, or have privacy with family members, all is fine.

Since we believe that we are all One, we understand that, while it may be comforting to have the minister or practitioner present in the same room, the clergy does not have to be present for support to be felt. We say affirmative prayers, or spiritual mind treatments, for anyone at any time and under any circumstance. We believe that we are never separated from one another and therefore the impact of what we think, say, and do for one another can be felt at any time. It can even help transform the experience of the one who is dying – and help to bring calm, acceptance, or healing. Our clergy don’t claim magic or mystical powers for healing; we do feel that we all have the ability go back to the basics, for health, healing, peace and love. We also believe that each of us is on our own journey. We respect the wants and desires of the person who is dying. We do not give advice or judgment. We simply offer comfort in whatever way the person who is dying wants it. All is well.

How do members of your faith community traditionally respond to the death of one of their members?

We cry, we mourn, we share, we remember, and then we usually celebrate the life of the one who has passed on rather than stay stuck on somber feelings of regret and loss.

Is there a service to memorialize the dead?

Most services are called Celebrations of Life. There are pictures, favorite music, videos, and other memorabilia on display so that everyone attending can learn about the person.  Oftentimes people from various phases of the person’s life are invited to share their remembrances. While sad, it is also a time when we can remember the most heartfelt parts of what that person brought to our lives. There is not much emphasis on a casket or cremation urn; rather it is about the spirit of the person that lives on.

What rituals of mourning are there in your faith?

There is no pre-determined ritual for Centers for Spiritual Living. We are a diverse and accepting community, therefore just about anything is acceptable. Although some choose to use candles or incense during the service these are not necessary – they may simply bring comfort to those in attendance. Sometimes there are informal gatherings or even parties held to honor the person who has died or spread the ashes. While we choose to look at the situation from a positive attitude of gratitude for the person, there is no shame in feeling sad or bad. The sweet and sour of life go together.

Is there a particular amount of time allocated for grieving?

There is no time limit to grieving; and neither is there an expectation that the loss of someone dear has to ruin the lives of those who remain. We believe that honest expression of feelings is better than repression. Grieving is unique and individual.

What text or passage would you suggest to a member of your faith community who is grieving?

Per Ernest Holmes in The Science of Mind textbook, “The Spirit is both birthless and deathless. The Principle of Life cannot know death. The experience of dying is but the laying off of an old garment, and the donning of a new one. “There are bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial; there is a material body and a spiritual body.” We are all of this.

What words would you share to comfort members of our community who may be mourning?

In our book, Heartfelt Memorial Services, there is a large section on “What to Say and What Not to Say” to someone who is grieving. Loss can be profound and it is always individual. We cannot presume to “know’ what the other person is going through. My main goal is to listen to the person grieving and to allow the time needed for that person to talk or cry or laugh. Oftentimes, taking the time to remember and talk about the loved one is the most soothing balm we can offer.

Is there a tradition from your faith that might be comforting for people of other faiths?

We have no vested interest in what people of other faiths believe about salvation or afterlife. Our own thoughts on these topics would take a back seat as we support others in going through their own rituals and feelings of loss.

Beverly Molander, MEd, RScM found close-knit, loving groups in church affiliations that began with Baptist churches in Eau Gallie and Tallahassee. After a sabbatical from any church during her twenties, Beverly found a close church community with the Unitarian Universalist community and, in the mid-eighties, she found a new spiritual home at the Atlanta Church of Religious Science (now Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta). In 1992, Beverly found herself to be a single mom rearing her son, Nigel, from the time he was two years-old. Beverly worked in radio or TV during the day and was with Nigel at night, and studied for her ministerial license in the time she had. Now an ordained minister, Beverly hosts a weekly radio show, Affirmative Prayer; Activating the Power of Yes, on Unity Online Radio.

Communicating our needs, wishes, & wants as caregivers

Communicating our needs, wishes, & wants as caregivers

As caregivers, we need ways to communicate honestly and effectively.

It seems a bit unfair to add one more required skill set on top of everything else we have to master, but if we’re attempting to take care of ourselves while taking care of another, we’ll likely find ourselves having many conversations that aren’t easy or simple. Whether these involve the person to whom we’re offering support and or people who are attempting to offer us support, it often helps if we can preface what we’re saying in a way that helps the person we’re talking to be better prepared to truly listen. Prefaces help both the speaker and listener drop into a place where they have the best likelihood of having a successful conversation.

Here are a few examples of some prefacing statements:

“There’s something I’ve really wanted to talk with you about. Would this morning be a good time? . . . ” “I wish I didn’t have to ask you this, but I really need your help . . . ” “Even though I’m doing okay overall, there are days when it feels like too much and I’m trying to figure out how I might reach out to others . . . ” “I know you’re in pain, but we really need to find a different way to do this . . . ” Ideally, prefacing statements are honest and clear, and demonstrate a respect for both ourselves and the person we’re speaking to.  They also allow us to be at our best in moments when we’re at risk for not being at our best!

I’d invite you to think about how such prefacing statements might be helpful in sharing your needs and wants and wishes.

Also, think about the successful moments you’ve had when engaging in difficult conversations, and please share any tips. It’s always inspiring to learn from one another.

Karen Horneffer-Ginter, Ph.D. is the author of “Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit,” newly released from Hay House and available for purchase at bookstores, including Amazon.



I come from a family of fixers. My dad tells the story of seeing a broken lamp next to a broken vacuum on the curb. The obvious solution – to him – was to fix the lamp with the vacuum cord. And, 20 years later, when it broke again, I rewired it.

So, it comes as no surprise that we have a hard time with things that can’t be fixed. Acceptance is difficult when you view the world as a puzzle to be solved. While we’d like to figure out how to replicate stories of spontaneous cures, that’s not something we can realistically work toward.

For many people this is where religion kicks in. They’re responsible for a certain amount of effort, often tremendous effort, but ultimately the outcome is up to a higher power. Of course, Letting go to things outside of our control is easier said than done.

How do you let go and accept that some aspects of life are outside of your control?

1. Acknowledge that you don’t know what’s best

People aren’t very good at knowing what they want, so we’re certainly not very good at anticipating the best outcome. Sometimes getting what we hoped for doesn’t turn out so well in the end. By thinking of the possible positive outcomes in the outcomes you don’t want, they become less frightening.

2. Learn to sooth yourself

Whatever it is that you’re resisting probably comes with a bunch of unpleasant emotions. This is a chance to grow into a more resilient person. Take the time to check in with yourself and make sure your needs are being met. Let’s not waste time pretending meeting your basic physical and emotional needs is optional.

Distraction and throwing yourself into caregiving is a great way to make it through taking care of what you need to do – it prevents us from getting lost in negative emotions while giving back some sense of control. But it’s equally important to make time and space to process what you’re going through. Meditation and journaling are great ways to do that.

3. Discover what really makes you happy

What gives your life a sense of purpose and meaning? Who brings you joy and a sense of belonging? What do you really need to be comfortable? Take the time to examine what’s really important in your life and focus your life to meet those goals. You don’t have to love your work or love your chores, but they’re a lot easier to do when you know they bring you closer to the people and things that bring you true joy.


The sooner we stop wasting time changing things that are outside of our control, the more energy we have to enjoy what we have right now.

Ways of grieving: Chet Yoder, Garden Spot Village

Ways of grieving: Chet Yoder, Garden Spot Village

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. Chet Yoder served as pastor at the Bowmansville Mennonite Church for eighteen years before becoming the Director of Pastoral Services at Garden Spot Village in August, 2008. Garden Spot Village is a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community that is committed to Christian values and principles.

chet yoder speaks on accepting what is and moving forward in positivityWhat does your faith teach about happens to people when their lives end?

As one who subscribes to the Christian faith, I believe that life continues following death.  The spiritual connection we have with God is not discontinued by the death of the body.  The Christian faith relies on the promises in the bible about the afterlife, which is often referred to as eternal life, life with its origin in the here and now, and which continues following the demise of the human body.

How do clergy comfort the dying? How do lay people comfort the dying?

Clergy often have specialized training in the care and comfort of the dying.  We are taught to observe physical symptoms which suggest that death may be close.  Often, we offer words of hope and encouragement from the perspective of faith.  Sharing scripture readings, prayers, and music all are effective forms of ministry to the dying.  And many times, simply being present is one of the most effective forms of ministry one can offer.  Lay persons often offer ministry similar to clergy, depending upon the training they have received.  We actively recruit lay persons to offer the ministry of presence to the dying when they have no one (family, etc.) attending to them when death is imminent.

How do members of the community traditionally respond to the death of one of their members?

The Garden Spot Village community often functions like a family when one of our members passes away.  Residents offer prayers and words of sympathy and comfort if there is a surviving spouse, or to family members when they have opportunity.   A notice of death, along with the time of the memorial service, is posted publicly so that neighbors and friends can offer their support and attend the service.

Is there a service to memorialize the dead? What is it like?

Very often a service is held following the death of one of our residents.  This may be a funeral service several days after the death with the body present for viewing and visitation with the family.  Many times a memorial service is held at the convenience of the family, sometimes weeks after the death event, which does not include a body for viewing but provides opportunity for visitation with the family and loved ones.  The service will often include music (hymns, songs that were important to the deceased, etc.), a scripture reading and meditation, remembrances shared by family, friends, and neighbors.  Often the service is followed by a time of refreshments and socializing in the lobby adjacent to the chapel.  Occasionally when a resident dies who has been receiving nursing care in one of our nursing households, a brief time of remembrance will be held in the household.  This service may include family, nursing staff, additional residents in the nursing household.  On occasion we have used Skype to include family members in these memorial services who are able to attend the service.

What rituals of mourning are there in your faith?

I encourage persons to give expression to their grief.  Sometimes, a spouse of son/daughter of the deceased will share a writing at the time of death or at the memorial service.  Garden Spot Village chaplain staff provides for an end of life celebration ritual at the time of death.  This bedside ritual includes scripture reading and prayers, along with placing a quilt over the deceased until the time of removal from our facility.  The quilt is embroidered with a cross and butterflies, both powerful symbols of life and death in the Christian faith.  I often have opportunity with families during the hours before the death of their loved one to encourage meaningful reflection of the life of their member, along with thoughtful reflection of the meaning of life (and death).  At times my role includes encouragement to family and the dying person to “let go” and place themselves and their loved one into the hands of our loving God.  I am a strong proponent of embracing “what is” and investing our energy into activity that is positive and proactive, rather than reactive.

Is there a particular amount of time allocated for grieving?

This varies greatly depending upon the family and attending circumstances of the death.  Traditionally, memorial services were held several days following death, due primarily to the body being present for viewing and restrictions related to the necessity of burial within a proscribed amount of time.  With the increasing popularity of cremation and decreasing practice of a traditional viewing, services may vary from several days following the death to weeks or even several months.  Increasingly families are choosing a private internment of the remains with a public service held when family is able to convene.

The memorial garden at Garden Spot Village

The memorial garden at Garden Spot Village

What text or passage would you suggest to a member of your faith community who is grieving?

I have several passages which offer hope and encouragement. John 11 contains the account of Jesus’ grief at the death of his good friend Lazarus.  Jesus, through his open display of grief, reveals to us that he also shares our grief and loss. Psalm 23 has been a universally loved passage which presents a pastoral view of the Good Shepherd who cares for his beloved in life and in death.  I have also found Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 helpful in acknowledging the various passages of life, of which death is but one.

What words would you share to comfort members of our community who may be mourning?

I believe it is highly important to validate the unique grief experience of each person, as no two experiences are the same.  I refrain from using sayings such as “I know how you are feeling” and “Don’t worry, God is in control”, believing that while we mean well with words like this, they tend to minimize the grief that persons are experiencing.  I encourage persons to embrace their grief and assure them that God will hold them during this very difficult time.  I often will remind persons that tears are a gift from God for occasions of grief and that we do well to use them.  Many times, the gift of presence for those in grief speaks volumes more than words.

Is there a tradition from your faith that might be comforting for people of other faiths?

Perhaps the most helpful tradition I could highlight is one that is shared by persons of other faiths, that being the commitment of the community to share the grief experience.  In our setting this occurs through personal visits, sending cards, an occasional food item, attending the visitation and service of the beloved, as well as remaining after the service for the food and fellowship which is in itself a wonderful support.  We encourage participation in support groups as well and follow up with pastoral visits and specific information regarding the journey of grief.

garden spot village logoA native of Mifflin County, PA, Chet Yoder has lived in Bowmansville for the past 25 years. Chet attended Rosedale Bible College in Irwin, OH, received his B.S degree from Lancaster Bible College in 1991, and a Master of Arts in Religion from Evangelical Seminary (Myerstown) in 2000. In addition he has completed 2 extended units of Clinical Pastoral Education and has done post-graduate work through the Center for Family Process in Potomac, MD. Ordained in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, Chet served as pastor at the Bowmansville Mennonite Church for eighteen years prior to coming to Garden Spot Village in August, 2008, as Director of Pastoral Services. He is married to Sandy and father of three sons. In his spare time he enjoys reading, gardening, walking, and various sports activities with his sons.


Sometimes the best thing to do is NOT be there

Sometimes the best thing to do is NOT be there

Since we started the #100happydays challenge on our Instagram today, it got me thinking: how can I truly make an effort to be more positive everyday?

What I’ve discovered after only a few hours is that it is indeed a challenge, especially if some people in our lives aren’t quite ready to practice positivity. Or just aren’t accustomed to positive thoughts whatsoever.

Almost immediately after I decided to sign up for the challenge, I received not one, not two, but THREE text messages from three different friends saying something negative about their days yesterday. They ranged from, “my life is DRAMA” to “how was your day? I had THE WORST.”

Suddenly, I had a flashback to a few days earlier when I lent an ear to another friend going through a tough time (though, honestly, he seems to always be going through a tough time). Upon hanging up and letting out a *sigh* my partner said, be careful of how much you listen to your friends venting, Liz. That negative stuff can creep into your head even if you think it’s not. I thought about it for a second and, in true Taurean fashion, immediately dismissed him. I can handle it, I said, I’ve been friends with him for years. I know how he can get.

After this morning, though, I have to admit my partner was onto something. When the text messages came barreling in this morning – in paragraph form, no less – I realized I couldn’t keep up with all the various forms of mania and anxiety coming my way. There I was trying to maintain my inner peace and manage my own anxiety, when my eyes and ears became receptacles for unsolicited drama and anger. My heart beat picked up and immediately turned off my phone.

Call me a bad friend, perhaps, but what if not being there was exactly what I needed to do? Showing someone you care can come in so many different forms, tough love being one of them. If I was committed to my own happiness, I knew I’d have to cut off the craziness at some point, especially if it wasn’t my own.

At the end of the day, I am the only one I am obligated to cheer up, and sometimes that’s hard enough considering I suffer from bouts of depression. Maybe my friends would realize they aren’t the only ones going through something and consider they are the key to their own happiness, I thought. I will only be around for so long, but they’ll have to live with themselves forever!

I can only hope that my act of self-love and subsequent tough love will hold some emotional resonance. Only time will tell.

Thank you to my caregiving friends

Thank you to my caregiving friends


The subject of gratitude comes up frequently during conversations in my writer’s group for caregivers. Life has frayed us all around the edges, but we understand that each day is a gift, even if we want to exchange it now and then for something a little less ragged.

Occasionally, the topic comes up against the backdrop of the latest conflict here or abroad and other times it comes on the heels of a bad scare while caring for a loved one who is ill or aging. But after shaking our heads and finding terra firma once again, we release those frightening moments for just a little while, and instead talk about some of the things we are grateful for – having a mother who is still going strong at 90 and beyond; finally getting one good night’s sleep; still being able to laugh at the absurdities of life; or being able to carve two hours out of the month to share our writing with each other.

When I watch the this video by Brother David Steindal-Rast, I always come away with a deep sense of appreciation for all I have, especially the friendship of these amazing women who face their caregiving challenges with such grace and good humor.

Because of them, I’m reminded of the quote by Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever say is “thank you” that will be enough.

Ways of grieving: Gadadhara Pandit Dasa

Ways of grieving: Gadadhara Pandit Dasa

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. Gadadhara Pandit Dasa is the first-ever Hindu chaplain of Columbia University and has spoken at a TEDx conference and has been featured on PBS, NPR, NY Times.

The Bhagavad Gita is considered as the most prominent Hindu texts and it’s the text I refer to when trying to provide solace to individuals who are grieving. It tells us that we are not the physical bodies. Rather, we are eternal spirit souls living within a body made up of matter. The following verses from chapter two of the Gita explain:

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.

These verses alleviate our very basic and most fundamental concern, the fear of ceasing to exist.  The Gita explains that the only thing about us that deteriorates and dies is the body, which is compared to an old set of garments.

The real person, the soul, continues to live on without being affected by any of the elements of this world, including the factor of time, which is ultimately responsible for diminishing the life of all matter.  Time, however, has no effect on the spiritual self (soul).

PanditThis isn’t our first life and it’s not going to be our last.  The soul is eternal and it will continue to exist even after the demise of the body. Knowing this can provide some solace about our own existence and the existence of those we care for.

Understanding that the real person never actually dies and continues to live on, I encourage people to continue to pray for the loved ones they have lost. I tell them that it’s never too late to pray because God will hear those prayers and assist their loved ones on their ongoing journey. This provides a lot of comfort for individuals who are grieving.

Different members of the community will respond differently to dying. The most natural thing is to mourn and remember all the joy and learning that person brought into our lives. Often times, people will take a picture of the deceased to the temple and offer some religious articles from the altar to that picture with the intention of benefitting the person wherever they may be. Generally, for a period of one year after the death of a relative, many Hindus won’t celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. This time period may vary within different families.

I encourage family members to remember the valuable life lessons that were learned from their family member and to try to follow through on those lessons. Thus, through their teachings and example, that person can continue to live in our heart.

Featured image credit: saiko3p / Shutterstock.com

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa is an author, meditation teacher, inspirational speaker, and lecturer at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. He has spoken at a TEDx conference and has been featured on PBS, NPR, New York Times, and writes for the Huffington Post. He has spoken at Google, Bank of America, Intel, Novartis, Harvard, Columbia, and many other institutions.

In his book, Urban Monk: Exploring Karma, Consciousness, and the Divine, Pandit writes about how he learned to deal with and overcome the loss of his family’s multi-million dollar fortunes that left him and his family with next to nothing.

Pandit uses his life experience and decades of in-depth studies to assist people in overcoming the various stress factors in their own lives.  The medical field now knows that stress leads to anxiety, insomnia, muscle tension, high blood pressure, and anger.  Pandit’s unique approach applies Eastern wisdom and meditation techniques to help the audience gain deeper insight into their mind and understand the reasons we becomes stressed, anxious, and angry. A properly nourished mind becomes our best friend and helps us achieve better physical, emotional, and spiritual health. A healthy mind makes us more productive, allows us to improve our personal and professional relationships, and helps us maintain a positive perspective on difficult situations.

Learn more about Pandit: Website // Facebook // Twitter // Linkedin

The health benefits of friendship

The health benefits of friendship

In the 2000 adventure film “Castaway,” Tom Hanks plays a character shipwrecked on a deserted island who is so desperate for companionship he endows a volleyball with human qualities and relates to it as if it were his best friend.

Wardens of prisoner-of-war camps and penal institutions have long recognized solitary confinement or complete isolation from fellow inmates as one of the most painful, dreaded forms of punishment. Human beings are social animals, and it comes as no surprise that isolation from family, friends, and other members of your “tribe” has a powerful effect on mental health. But in recent years, a number of studies have shown having (or not having) friends has a powerful influence on physical health, as well.

As it turns out, having friends is not only good for your soul but it’s good for your body, too.

People with Friends May Live Longer

A 2010 meta-analysis of 148 different research studies found that “people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”

The somewhat fuzzy term “social relationships” doesn’t have a universally accepted definition, but for researchers in the social sciences, it encompasses friends as well as family members. It also includes belonging to a church or volunteer organization.

To grasp the full impact of these findings, consider the comparative role of other known risk factors on survival: social relationships have about the same influence on the odds of dying earlier as smoking and alcohol consumption, and even more than physical inactivity and obesity.

So while losing weight and eating healthy top the list for most popular New Year’s resolutions, consider including “make new friends” on the list.

Why Social Relationships Prolong Life

The two main theories behind the influence of social relationships on longevity are thestress buffering model and the main effects model. Neither one is better than the other at explaining this influence; to varying degrees, they are both true.

Stress Buffering Model

According to this model, the people in our lives are a source of useful information as well as emotional, practical, and, sometimes, financial support. These resources promote healthier behavior, but more importantly, they influence our bodies’ physiological responses to acute or chronic stress. The benefits of our social relationships thus “buffer” the harmful influences of stress. Supportive friends help us weather the frustration, pain, loss, and disappointment that are an inevitable part of life.

Main Effects Model

According to this model, when people belong to a social network, they typically conform to its norms concerning health and self-care. Direct encouragement by friends or modeling of healthy behavior motivates us to take better care of ourselves. Being part of a social network also lends greater meaning and a sense of purpose to our lives and increases our self-esteem. Through direct encouragement and the example of their own behaviors, healthy friends show us how to take better care of ourselves. And when we do, it boosts our self-esteem.

The Cardiovascular and Immune Systems

In recent years, more detailed research has identified which specific disorders and conditions are influenced by strong social relationships. The list is long. Having good friends and other social connections has an impact on a wide range of conditions, from heart health to cancer.

  • A 2006 study found that strong social support has a positive impact on the cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems, as well as the immune system and inflammatory processes implicated in poor health outcomes. Other studies have correlated a weak social network with depression, cognitive decline, poor wound healing, and delayed cancer recovery.
  • Another study explored the influence of “negative emotions” (anger, envy, despair, etc.) on the entire immune system. Inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even periodontal disease. And because the inflammatory response “can be directly stimulated by negative emotions and stressful experiences,” the study authors argued that close personal relationships that diminish negative emotions may enhance health “through their positive impact on immune and endocrine regulation.”

These studies lend support to the stress buffering model: the emotional resources supplied by friends and other social connections ease the stress of life and lessen its effect on our physiological processes and, in particular, our immune system.

Not All Friends are Created Equal

We’ve all heard about or known kids who get involved with the wrong crowd and begin to act out or go downhill academically. Maybe you know of people who belong to a social set that exerts a bad influence: its members may be heavily involved with drugs, addicted to the party life, or overly status conscious, for example. While a supportive network of healthy friends can be uplifting, surrounding yourself with slackers or partiers may only add to life’s stressors.

Because our social connections influence our health habits, it’s crucial to form the right kind of bonds. At their best, strong marital ties, supportive family relationships, religious affiliation, and close friendships have been shown to reduce stress and promote healthy behaviors.12 On the flip side, a bad marriage or toxic friendship may instead generate negative emotions and increase a person’s stress levels. As a result, a person with unstable relationships may stop exercising, eat less healthy foods, drink more alcohol, or resort to recreational drugs.

According to the main effects model, when members of a social set engage in unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors, they encourage others to do the same. Good friends are good for your health, but bad ones have the opposite effect. Remember that the quality of your social relationships is more important than the quantity.

Hundreds of Friends but Not a Single Confidant

By now, it’s a cliché: day by day, the world’s population grows ever more interconnected. The internet is shrinking our planet and making it increasingly “flat” (in the words of Tom Friedman) so that tragedies befalling foreigners in distant countries no longer seem quite so remote. Hashtags that express unity with suffering citizens across the world spontaneously spring up and go viral.

On the domestic front, Americans routinely have hundreds of Facebook “friends” and Twitter followers. Every day, we tell each other about vacations and parties and social events. We exchange our viewpoints with tweets and instant messages. It would seem people today know more about each other than ever before. But do we really?

While we may have some connection with a greater number of people than before, our social relationships tend to be less intimate and more superficial. In part, we can attribute this development to a culture that sometimes reduces communication to 140-character comments and encourages people to proclaim their triumphs (but not their disappointments) to the whole world. Neither one is conducive to true intimacy.

A true friend or confidant is someone who cares about more than having a good time, who is willing to listen when you’re in pain, and shares his or her own struggles from time to time. A true friend knows who you truly are. When people add a “like” to something you posted to your Facebook news feed, that doesn’t mean they actually care about you.

There’s something to be said for casual acquaintances, be they at church, the workplace, school, or around the neighborhood. Some social relationships go deeper than others, and not every one of them needs to be truly intimate. But we all need a close friend or confidant who will listen when we want to talk about more than last night’s game or what happened on “American Idol.” Social relationships of all types and degrees of closeness are important, but having at least one confidant is crucial.

Make Good Friends by Being One Yourself

Human beings form social relations because we need them. We’re tribal by nature, developing our sense of self through interconnection. Only through our personal relationships – as life partners, friends, family members, and parents – can we fully self-actualize. Hardy social relations are crucial for our emotional and physical health.

As a guide for developing the kind of social connections we all need by virtue of our genetic inheritance, consider relying on a version of the old golden rule: relate to prospective friends as you would like them to relate to you in return.

First become the kind of friend you would like to find and treat potential candidates for friendship with the interest and respect you hope to receive. Then pay attention. If your consideration isn’t reciprocated, this social relationship could be one that only increases negative feelings and adds to stress. That’s bad for emotional well being, of course, but it’s bad for physical health as well.


Joseph holds a PhD in psychotherapy. He is a published author and writes at After Psychotherapy and Psychology Today.

Joseph Burgo’s Author Profile Joseph Burgo’s Google Plus Page

Originally posted on Fix.


Expressing care through loving boundaries

Expressing care through loving boundaries

Caregivers have a commitment in sustaining their own care while caring for a loved one. Caregiving can be challenging, and frequently requires extraordinary commitment, perseverance, and dedication, which will cause caregivers to ignore their own essential needs. Over time, as caregivers become engrossed in the care of their loved one, they cease to care for their own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

A fundamental approach caregivers can ensure caring of their own needs is through establishing and maintaining loving boundaries. Loving boundaries are firm, yet flexible boundaries. Loving boundaries compel caregivers and loved ones to have candid, honest, and open communication.

Caregivers who overlook their own physical, mental, and spiritual needs will ultimately burnout. Burnout can manifest as anger, frustration, and/or depression. Caregiver burnout can develop when boundaries have been not been clearly defined; as well as when open, honest, and direct communication with the loved one has not occurred.

Loving boundaries define emotional, behavioral, and physical sensitivities. Loving boundaries define the considerations for the Caregiver loved one relationship arrangement. Loving boundaries present acceptable emotional, behavioral, and physical expectations in their own and their loved one’s behavior. Unclear, inconsistent, or nonexistent boundaries become problematic for the Caregiver and loved one creating problems, as well as powerful negative emotional responses for both parties.

The possibility remains to change the situation through thoughtful reflection of the following:

Are you satisfied with the boundaries and routines you have established? For yourself? For your Loved One?

Determine your loved one’s authentic needs.

  • Are you meeting their needs?
  • Are you meeting your own needs?

How are you feeling

  • Are you often angry or frustrated?
  • Do you feel burned out?

If so, the CareGiving routine must change. CareGivers cannot continue when strong negative emotions are present. Examine the circumstances provoking strong emotions. These are areas in need of change, or stronger more consistent boundaries.

Determine a plan of action for establishing, re-establishing, or maintaining boundaries.

Have a candid, open conversation with your Loved One regarding the challenges, and how to resolve.

Important aspects for communication

  • Define the problem or challenge
  • Describe how you are feeling
  • Listen to your Loved One
  • Outline what you both need to resolve the situation
  • Your relationship is a partnership, both perspective are imperative
  • Give yourself permission to change the routine
  • Remember to care for yourself with regular personal time for you.

Ask yourself daily

How am I doing today?

What do I need to improve my well being?

Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or cannot determine how to resolve the situation.

Ways of grieving: Simran Jeet Singh, Sikh Coalition

Ways of grieving: Simran Jeet Singh, Sikh Coalition

Religion is an important source of strength for many of our members, so we’re asking clergy from different religious traditions to share how their members mark the end of a life. Simran Jeet Singh, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University and regular contributor to The New York Times, TIME.com, and The Washington Post, was kind enough to speak about how the Sikh tradition approaches dying and mourning.

What does your faith teach about happens to people when their lives end?

The Sikh tradition (Sikhi) gives no clear explanation on what happens to people when their lives end. Sikhi does not place emphasis on afterlife, and instead, encourages people to focus on what can be achieved within our present lives. According to its religious teachings, this human life is a unique opportunity to connect with the Divine, to realize our potential, and to serve those around us.

singhHow do religious leaders comfort the dying? How do lay people comfort the dying?

Sikhi believes that every individual has the same opportunity to develop a relationship with Divinity, and therefore there is no clergy in the Sikh tradition. Sikhs comfort the dying according to their wishes. Many Sikhs prefer to listen to religious music (kirtan) and recitation (path) during their final moments, and many also choose to spend final time with their loved ones.

How do members of the community traditionally respond to the death of one of their members?

Sikhi views death as a part of life and the Divine Order (hukam). According to Sikh traditions, death is not a time for mourning, but instead a time for gathering, remembering, and celebrating. Community members traditionally respond to the death of one of their members by organizing worship services in which people come together to praise the Divine and reflect on the life of the individual who passed away.

Is there a service to memorialize the dead? What is it like?

When a Sikh passes away, family and community members (sangat) gather together for worship. While the themes of the worship service may vary, people generally take this as an opportunity to express love and gratitude. Sikh worship primarily draws from the Sikh scripture (Guru Granth Sahib) — which is written in verse — and is typically conducted with collective singing and recitation.

What rituals of mourning are there in your faith? Is there a particular amount of time allocated for grieving?

The Sikh tradition teaches that life is to be lived with everlasting optimism (chardi kala). Therefore there is no ritual for mourning or grieving, even in a situation of a loved one’s passing.

What text or passage would you suggest to a member of your faith community who is grieving?

A scriptural composition traditionally sung at the time of one’s passing is Sohila. This composition, which is also a core part of Sikh liturgy, reflects on themes related to life, death, and celebration. The community has sung Sohila collectively since the formative moments of the Sikh tradition, and it continues to provide guidance and solace to those who reflect on its messages.

What words would you share to comfort members of our community who may be mourning?

Upon losing a loved one, it may be comforting to reflect on the transience of life and to remember that we are simply guests in this world. It may also help to reflect on concepts of humility, acceptance and graciousness. This ideas are exemplified throughout the Sikh scripture, including in this prayer from Guru Ramdas: “O Divine, you are the True Creator and my Divine Master. Whatever you please is what comes to pass, and whatever you give is what I receive.”

Is there a tradition from your faith that might be comforting for people of other faiths?

I find the Sikh tradition of framing death as an occasion for celebration to be incredibly comforting and powerful. This approach focuses on the positive contributions of one’s life and allows us to better preserve the memories and feelings of our loved ones. Celebrating rather than mourning also pushes us to count our blessings in a time of emotional vulnerability and helps us bring stability and solace into our lives, families, and communities.

Simran Jeet SinghlogoSimran Jeet Singh is a Senior Religion Fellow at the Sikh Coalition. He is responsible for strengthening relationships among faith communities and supporting media outreach.

Simran is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, focusing on devotional traditions and literatures of early modern South Asia. His expertise ranges from the formations of religious communities in early modern South Asia to xenophobia and hate violence in modern America. His dissertation research focuses specifically on the founder of the Sikh tradition – Guru Nanak– and the earliest available manuscript accounts of his life.

He earned an M.A. from the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures of Columbia University (2009), an M.T.S. in South Asian Religious Traditions from Harvard University (2008), and a B.A. in English Literature and Religious Studies from Trinity University (2006). He is currently a Truman National Security Fellow and the Scott and Rachel F. McDermott Fellow for the American Institute of Indian Studies. In addition to his role with the Sikh Coalition, Simran serves in a voluntary capacity as the Director for the Surat Initiative and the board for the Sikh Spirit Foundation.

Simran speaks and writes on a wide range of issues relating to religion and culture. He contributes regularly to a number of media outlets, such as The New York Times, TIME.com, The Washington Post, and Newsweek’s The Daily Beast. He has also appeared on various television and radio programs, including BBC, NPR, CBS, and PBS. and in 2014 Simran delivered a keynote address at The White House.

Nip fear in the bud

Nip fear in the bud

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration… ― Frank Herbert Dune

Fear an anxiety is widely common among caregivers. To understand fear and anxiety, we must first understand how the human mind works. The mind is the part of a human that thinks, reasons, feels and remembers, also known as the faculty of consciousness and thought, also known as the brain. According to studies in the psychology department of Pennsylvania State University, the average person speaks at a rate of 125 to 169 words per minute while thinking four times more rapidly. In other words, we think four times faster than we speak in a minute. An additional fun fact, Scientist discovered that it takes 13 milliseconds for the brain to see an image. In a nut shell, the brain/mind is super fast. How does this relate to fear and anxiety? Well, anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The cause of anxiety is intrinsic in its definition. Anxiety is caused by the anticipation of something that’s yet to happen, and this begins in the mind. Thoughts causes feelings, and feelings leads to thoughts. A negative thought forms in our mind, and because of how fast the mind works, the thought takes root before we know it and the more we ponder on it, the more we feel unpleasant about it, leading to worry, unease, nervousness etc. Here’s an example of how this works. I have a headache, I begin to think about the headache, and a phrase like this forms in my head ¨this is bad,¨ the thought triggers a feeling of unease in me, which in turn triggers another thought, ¨what if it becomes worse?¨ this leads to a feeling of nervousness, followed by another thought, ¨what if it’s a migraine?¨ I begin to worry and the pattern continues until I become a train wreck of anxiety. Bear in mind that I may or may not have a migraine. Anxiety is like a little tear in a garment, unless patched up, it continues to get bigger and bigger. It all begins with a negative thought, the key is to nip it in the bud.

”We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown.”― Teal Swan

Whether we fear the unknown or we fear what we think, the point remains we fear. So how do we prevent ourselves from being unduly anxious? Having determined that anxiety begins in the mind, the way to also get rid of it begins in the mind, at its onset. It’s called attacking a problem at its root or nipping it in the bud. Our minds have the tendency toward negative thoughts, but we also control our minds. Therefore, we can control our thoughts. Here are three easy ways to get rid of anxiety.

Think positive and breath

Positive thoughts gets rid of anxiety. Think thoughts that are calming, breath deeply and sigh to release tension.

Shift your focus on the environment

Do something like speaking to the space, standing instead of siting, walking around, jumping or bouncing, and touching object. Doing this may help you get out of your own head.


Yes write about it. Writing about what’s making you anxious gives you a better perspective on it. It helps you identify your worry and gives you the ability to step away from it and look at it from afar. You might just discover there’s nothing to worry about.

What binds us

What binds us

During a drive to work I began thinking about the differences between an “average Joe” and a caregiver in terms of personality and temperament. Not to say we’re not “normal” (what is normal anyway?) or like every other human being, but I believe there is something that sets us apart.

1) Caregivers fill the gap systemically.

You make the phone calls. You take them to their appointments. You give the baths. You make the food. You do it all. So why is it so hard for others to see the need? Because you saw the bigger picture of what what needed, doesn’t mean others have or that they ever will. This was the hardest truth for me to manage as a caregiver. You see a need. A great need that isn’t easy, and choose to serve your loved one anyway. I cannot think of a more beautiful love.  Through the resentment, betrayal from others, or envy you may feel, remind yourself that that this journey is a testament of your lovingkindness. You have a gift to be see what is needed in the various systems of your loved one’s life. You are not perfect, but you do what you can do fill the gap. Simply, those who would not see a need would not be able to help…definitely not in the ways that you do. 

2) Caregivers have strong values.

You understand that there are standards we are to aim for in our lives, including a quality life. Your being in the midst of your loved one’s life proves that your aim is to help them thrive. Having a value system has a huge impact on how we make life decisions and prioritize our time. Again, because our values may differ from others, we can feel slighted quite often. We are looking through our own lenses and it seems so clear what we are striving for. This is what I love about caregivers– instead of choosing the path of least resistance (social norms or values), you choose to follow your moral compass (intrinsic values) instead…even if it means much more hardship.

I encourage you to take a small moment of your time and write out your top three values of life. Mine would look something like: 1) Communication and respect are key in any relationship 2) Family comes first 3) Show kindness to others even when it isn’t received. I would love to hear what yours are in the comments below.

3) Caregivers are leaders.

In order to be able to effectively caretake for someone, there are times we have to take hold of the reigns. We have to make the tough calls about our loved one’s health, safety, or security. Caregiving gives us additional purpose and call to action… a reason to advocate for more. Personally speaking, I never saw myself as a “leader” personality. I grew up painfully shy and am very meek-spirited. I believe caregiving showed me the reserves of strength and qualities I never knew I had deep down inside.

I hope you too are able to see how caregiving has grown and moved you. I hope you are able to see that you are a shining light in darkness. I hope you see that you are not set aside, but set apart from others. You are a caregiver.

Who’s in charge?

Who’s in charge?

In this article on dominant verses non-dominant caregiver I’m applying it to spouses. However, it can apply to anyone where there is a caregiver to patient relationship.

My wife Annie and I owned an estate sale business for almost twenty years. We kept it up and running until the time of her cancer diagnosis. We averaged between twenty and twenty-four estate sales a year. Many of the sales we conducted were for older couples, and many with one of the spouses in a care home, or hospital. One of the things that stood out most was that there was always a dominant spouse, usually the male, but not always. Annie and I watched and worried about how adversely some of the non-dominant spouse’s were being treated by the dominant spouse. Even from a hospital bed, a dominant spouse can create havoc and chaos for their non-dominant spouse caregiver. I’ve seen it many times. At the time, I really didn’t know what a caregiver was, but now that I do, being a non-dominant spouse caregiver appeared to be a very difficult and frustrating position to be in.

Giving my all

When Annie was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, blood cancer, over a period of thirty months, we spent over one hundred days in the hospital and separately made over one hundred trips to the cancer center where the waiting rooms were always filled with patients and caregivers, many being spouses.

I was Annie’s caregiver 24/7. I gave her everything I had in me, and when that was not enough I found the strength from within to give her more. When I say a 24/7 caregiver, that was kind of meaningless in my case. Annie was dying from day one, and within the first 3 weeks some of my days were 35 hours long. And then a two hour nap might be possible while she was sleeping. Annie had so many broken and diseased bones from her cancer she was on 200mg of morphine a day, plus Percocet and a fentanyl patch for breakthrough pain control. That’s why it was imperative that I stayed awake so long. That amount of pain medication will put a person to sleep forever. I didn’t want that and became committed to not letting it happen. In my case there was no domination anywhere, it was all about love. I loved Annie fiercely, and was willing to do what it took to care for her while she adjusted to the pain medication. I lost over 18 pounds over a period of the first couple of months. But I never gave up, or gave in. We fought together as a team, and I led her through very troubled waters many times, always directing and leading in her care. I made many mistakes, as I was a novice caregiver at first, but my leadership still allowed her to feel safe and the trust builds from there.

I was Annie’s caregiver 24/7. I gave her everything I had in me, and when that was not enough I found the strength from within to give her more.

So I understand what it takes to be a good spousal caregiver. And I think that the key to being or learning to be a good caregiver for your spouse begins with the level of love you share, which I believe to be the glue that binds spouses together during the hard times. Beyond that it would be empathy, compassion, and a lot of unselfish hard work. The opinion that I am giving on dominant verses non-dominant spousal caregivers is just that. My opinion. It’s based on hundreds, if not a thousand or more observations of caregiver to patient relationships. Many being spouses. I could throw many more areas of contention in the fire here too, on both sides, but I think this article makes my point.

Which spouse makes a good caregiver

This is my opinion based on my observation of dominant spouse caregivers…They rarely make good caregivers. Reason being is they fail to address the concerns and emotions of their non-dominant spouse patient, due to lack of empathy and compassion for their spouse. Yes, they will provide care and ask questions of the doctors, but due to their inability to empathize with their spousal patient they don’t feel the need to share the information even if the spouse asks. In other words they like too, and will maintain total control over the patient. When you see a spousal patient sitting in a chair, head down, with dribble running down their chin and soiling their clothes while the caregiver is reading a magazine or news paper and making no effort to show love or caring for their spouse, the caregiver will most likely be the dominant spouse.

The non-dominant spouse on the other hand makes a good caregiver for many reasons. One, is the fact that a non-dominant spouse, that allows the dominant spouse to dominate him/her through many years of marriage is, because the non-dominant spouse is usually empathetic, compassionate, and non-confrontational. They care, and they get it. The non-dominant spouse caregiver will discuss anything and everything with their spouse and go to great lengths to make sure their spouse is as comfortable as possible. Here’s what I found curious. A dominant spousal patient in a hospital bed and very ill, just by making certain eye contact with the non-dominant spouse will provoke emotion and quick action from the non-dominant spouse. That is the fear factor. And many of you know what I’m talking about.

The Power Struggle

One of the things that can make spousal care giving more difficult is in fact the dominant spouse effect. In most relationships one of the spouses will be more assertive or dominant than the other. If the caregiver happens to be non-dominant, the dominant patient can and often does make the caregiver’s life miserable. In most cases they do it because they can. In other words, you let them. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a power struggle with your spouse. It will be a lose, lose, situation for you both. Once the resentment builds up, it’s hard to shake off.

Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a power struggle with your spouse.

As the non-dominant spouse you have to learn to work yourself into the team leadership role. After all, you are partners. Most likely, initially your spouse will be very resistant to any change in their role from being the dominant spouse. That’s understandable and normal. Here’s how you reduce the burden of stress and resentment on your spouse. All changes in their role as the dominant spouse need to be as subtle as possible and slowly implemented over time. Quick changes can create chaos and you don’t need that. And if you’re going to be the team leader, lead by example. Be consistent with any schedules you set up. If a bath or body wash is set up for 10:00 A.M. each day, do it on time. Not two hours later because something came up. Yes, there will be times when things happen or go wrong and you can’t meet the schedule. Well, once again be a leader. Explain the situation to your spouse, and what you’re going to do about it. It’s pretty much a given that a dominant spouse wants to know everything, wants everything to be consistent, on time, and more. They don’t handle chaos that they can’t control, very well. Make sure the lines of communication are open at all times, as best you can. Explain any changes to medication or schedules so they have a clear understanding of what’s going on. Talk to your spouse; Lead.

The dominant spouse caregiver takes on a whole different role. If he/she don’t give you your bath on time, you’re not likely going to complain. And if you do you will most likely be met with, “you should be thankful I’m giving you a bath at all.” A non-dominant spouse feels pain, too. If the non-dominant spouse asks for break through pain medication while the dominant spouse is busy, well, good luck with that. They’ll get to you when they feel you need break through pain control. To a truly dominant spousal caregiver, your broken back from cancer is just a back ache. Stop making a fuss!

Dominant spouses need to be in control of their lives and will control yours if you let them. Even if a dominant spouse is sick in the hospital, they will likely want to retain control over the finances. And that’s often the way it is. So you have to help through leadership. Don’t make paying bills the source of an argument. Now, I could sound educated and tell you to gently nudge them into giving you the account information, but I’m not, and I won’t. Because it doesn’t work that way. Deal with reality, and reality is, “Honey, you’re too sick to be paying or worrying about the bills, let me handle it for you this month.” In all likely hood, because you are not making this sound like a permanent transition, the spouse may say, “That sounds like a good idea.” Followed by, “I’ll take care of it next month.” Remember, make transitions over time and with leadership. Even the most resistant of spouses will follow you if you show them good leadership, order, and lead them away from chaos. After all, even though they may not be letting you know how they feel, as they believe it shows a sign of weakness on their part, they may be feeling internally that their life is steaming out of control. Good leadership will create awareness and help solve the problem.

Dominant spouses need to be in control of their lives and will control yours if you let them.

As a non-dominant spouse, good leadership is so important. One of the reasons you’re in the position you’re in as a non-dominant spouse is simple. Your spouse never felt that you we capable of doing many things right. And the explanation for that usually filters down to the dominant spouse’s childhood. Learned behavior, and not easy to change. But the objective is not to try and change your spouse, rather for you to learn to be diplomatic and show your spouse that you’re very capable and will do whatever it takes to be a good caregiver and take care of household matters too. Being a caregiver never was and never will be easy.

If you love each other, let the love shine through

Of course, what I just said may not apply, as some circumstances are so complicated and complex that trying to follow any sort of guidelines just won’t work. My advice for both spouse’s is to communicate, and talk to each other about your needs. If you love each other, let the love shine through. And if for some reason that’s not the case, be a humanitarian and do the right thing.

Once Annie and I saw a lady in her mid fifties at the cancer center. When we saw her she was standing in the laboratory, leaning against the door opening and vocally crying. When she left I asked the nurse if she was okay, and she responded by relating a very sad story to me and Annie. The nurse said the lady had been in remission from her cancer, and now that the cancer had come back, her caregiver husband packed his bags and left, saying he was not going to go through that again. And on that day, the lady refused all further treatment, saying she did not want to live without him…Would he be a dominant or non-dominant spouse? I don’t know the answer to that question, not knowing either party. Regardless, how sad is that? But it happens more often than you think. Being a caregiver for a loved one can be a very tiring and thankless task, but if you can’t do it, than who will?

I acknowledge that the caregiver system in this country is broken. But there is a glimmer of hope as noted in all the publicity it’s been getting in national newspapers and magazines. And The Caregiver Space is doing all it can to promote awareness, and bring change to a very difficult arena of life. Sadly, for now all we can do is the best we can with the tools we have to work with. I wish you the best.

The end of friendship

The end of friendship

We talk a lot about friends dropping us after we become caregivers. Before we write our former friends off, let’s take another look at the situation.

Becoming a caregiver changes people in a big way. We look at the world differently: our priorities shift, our interests change, we’re under a lot of stress. As much as we expect our friends to stick around, they may no longer feel connected to this new version of ourselves.

It sounds harsh, but no one owes you friendship. Friendship is a gift; one that can be revoked at any time. This is especially likely to happen when it seems like a friend has changed so radically we hardly recognize them.

Let’s try to see the situation through their eyes for a moment and ask ourselves: Are we still the person they cared about? Are they still getting anything out of this friendship?

The old you

  • How did you meet?
  • What brought you together?
  • What challenges have you weathered together?
  • What do you still share?
  • What can you do together?
  • Can you still relate to them?

Give and take

  • How do you let them know what they mean to you?
  • Do you reach out to them?
  • Do you talk about things besides caregiving?
  • Do you keep the plans you make?
  • Do you know what’s going on in their life right now?
  • How do you show that you care about what’s important to them?

Is this a relationship you can revive? If so, reach out and remind them of why you’re friends. You don’t have to say it outright; it can be an invitation to something fun to do together or a phone call where you really listen to them. Let them know how they can really listen and how they can help, but remember that they also deserve to be listened to and supported.

Not every friendship has to last forever. Growing apart doesn’t have to be a negative thing – people and your relationships with them change. That’s normal and healthy. By cherishing the friendship you once had and accepting how things have changed, you leave the door open to reconnect in the future.

Caregiver burnout: when should you get help?

Caregiver burnout: when should you get help?

While caring for a loved one can be incredibly rewarding, there are times when it can become very stressful, leading to burnout if you don’t take care of yourself. There are times when stress can become unmanageable, but when you’re devoted to caring for a loved one, it can be easy to neglect your own needs. Would you be able to recognise when it was time to get outside help? In this article, we’ll look at common signs of caregiver’s burnout, and where to turn to get outside help.

What is caregiver’s burnout?

Caregiver burnout is the name used to describe the physical and mental exhaustion that can develop among carers, and is often developed when caregivers try to do more than they can to help their loved one, or aren’t given the help they need for effective caring. Caring for a loved one can often be a long term challenge, changing the family dynamic, adding financial pressure, and additional workload around the house. As a result caregiver burnout can be a real danger, due to the difficulty of adapting to these new challenges.

Burnout can really affect your ability to assist your loved one, so recognising when you need to bring in outside help, even for a short period of time, is essential to ensure you can care for your loved one over the long term.

What are symptoms of caregiver burnout?

There are a number of symptoms you should look out for to identify whether you’re developing burnout. The most noticeable change that burnout brings is a lack of energy. You’ll constantly feel exhausted, with less enthusiasm and energy than before, even after sleeping or taking a break. You may also notice that you’re caring after yourself less, neglecting your own needs because you feel as if you’re too busy to do so, or feel as if there’s no point.

Caregiver burnout can also change your mood. Often, you’ll find it hard to relax and become increasingly impatient. An unfortunate effect of this may be that you’ll take your anger out on the person you’re caring for, becoming irritable with them. Sufferers of caregiver burnout can also feel as if they’re helpless, being stuck in the same day to day routine without an end in sight.

As well as mental effects, there are also physical effects. Stress and burnout affects our immune systems, causing colds, eczema and headaches, among other health problems.

The truth is that once these effects begin taking place, you’re no longer in a fit mental or physical condition to care for another person. It’s essential to keep a check on any symptoms of caregiver burnout and know when to get outside help to keep symptoms from escalating.

What help should you get if you’re showing symptoms?

There are a number of things you can do if you recognise some of the symptoms above. The first step is to recognise when it’s time to take a break. It might be hard to imagine leaving your loved one, but when stress and burnout becomes unmanageable and you’re experiencing the symptoms described above, a break of a week or two can really help you return to health. This is especially true when caring for someone with a long term illness such as alzheimers, which comes with lots of specific needs. The best course of action is to find a local specialist care home that offers respite care, as these will have the knowledge and resources to care for your loved one to a high standard. If you’re showing many of the symptoms described above, then it may be time to have some time off.

Share the load

Getting outside help is also essential after taking a break, or in order to prevent burnout. Make a list of all the areas that you could do with some extra help on, for example picking up groceries, having someone cover you while you go to the cinema or need some time to relax. Then, match that list with friends and family who may be able to assist.

Not only is this a good step to take after having a break from caring, it’s a good idea to regularly keep a mental note of who may be able to help with various activities which can help you manage your responsibilities when there are sudden changes, for example if you fall ill and can’t keep up with caring.

Another time to consider getting help from friends and family is when you’re noticing that your physical health is deteriorating because you’ve not been able to go to the gym, or if you’ve not had time for hobbies or other interests. Having friends and family members to take on some caring jobs can really help you get some time back in order to care for yourself, making it easier to manage your workload. Don’t forget that exercise is an excellent de-stressing tool!

Plan for the future

Another important time to get help from a doctor or expert on your loved one’s illness is whenever their needs are changing. Your loved one may have a variety of needs arising from multiple health problems, and their condition may evolve over time. Make sure you speak to an expert and understand how their needs may change over time, allowing you to adapt and plan for the future. It may be that you can manage on your own now, but what about in six months, a year, or longer?

Understanding your loved one’s future needs can help you ease the pressure of other worries such as finance. Speaking to a doctor may help you plan whether or not your loved one’s care needs will increase, and whether you need to plan for them to get round the clock care at home or in a care home. Planning ahead ensures you have an idea of what’s around the next corner, ensuring you’re not taken by surprise by new caring needs, which may leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Practice positive thinking

While it can feel that you’re failing your loved one if you cannot care for all of their needs, remember that no one’s perfect. It’s important to stay positive in your outlook to manage stress, which can be done by making a list of all the things you’re doing to help your loved one. It can be tough to develop the habit of positive thinking, so start small by thinking of something positive you’ve done before going to bed or as you wake up. Be sure to treat yourself on occasion, even when you’ve achieved small accomplishments, helping you to rediscover the joy in your work.

Wrapping up

As a carer, it’s important to remember that there are people out there to help you when the going gets tough. Hopefully the tips above will help you know when it’s the right time to seek help, as well as keeping these people in mind over the long term to avoid burnout in the long term.

What do you use a sign to signal that you need outside help? Have you had success in dealing with caregiver burnout using the tips above, or have your own advice to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Let the knowledge empower you

Let the knowledge empower you

Since you had the news you have thought about it over and over again. You have examined all angles, you have weighed all options and you know with full conviction if there was absolutely anything you could do, you would do it. Let the knowledge empower you.

Sometimes in life, we go through situations that we would only wish on our worst enemies. We question the universe, we blame it on God, we ask ourselves, maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s something, maybe it’s anything, maybe it’s nothing. But the fact remains it’s there and there’s nothing we can do about it. Let the knowledge empower you.

There is nothing we could do to change the moment before we know a loved one has a terminal disease, but there is a lot we could do the moment we find out, knowledge is after all power. Everything now revolves around what we know. What we do with the knowledge changes everything.

We have little control over what happens to us most times, but we have power over how we let it affect our lives. It’s called the power of knowledge, perception and choice. We could choose to be down and weary through life’s most challenging obstacles, we could choose to accept fate with resignation or we could choose to be empowered.

John was 19 years old when he found out his mother had breast cancer. The doctor really couldn’t tell them how much time she had left to live, but the certainty was that death was inevitable. Several questions were asked, what can we do? surgery? exercise? medicine? Answers came all summarized in one word. “Nothing”, with an unpleasant finality. John, as you can imagine, met the news with great sorrow. Who wouldn’t?

He was the only child of his mother, so he was who you might call a mama’s boy.

There are no guarantees in life, but there are choices. John decided he was going to be empowered by cancer rather than defeated. He started doing research on breast cancer and during the course of his research he found an information that had nothing to do with cancer, but was nevertheless empowering. This information changed his life.

John was a sophomore in college, when he got back from school each day, he would say something funny to make his mother laugh, and she would, and so it continued on till he graduated from college, went for his master’s degree, got married and had his first child. His mother lived to witness it all, dying eight years after her diagnosis. Fate? maybe, or just simple knowledge. John had stumbled on this article that reads laughter makes you live longer, he was a little bit skeptic about it, but he knew even if he could not stop his mother from dying, he could fill her remaining days with pleasant memories. Only those days turned to months, and months to years.

It doesn’t matter how much time, what you do with it is what matters. Life is all about how you choose to look at it. You have the power of knowledge, perception and choice over things you cannot change. Use the knowledge to empower yourself and use time wisely.

19 more ways to find joy when you’re feeling down

19 more ways to find joy when you’re feeling down

  1. Watch old movies, better times back then
  2. Purchase a special tea or coffee, something extravagant and have some when there’s a moment of quiet
  3. Look at old comic books from back in the day
  4. Play music pleasing to one own self, if only for a few minutes or an hour if possible
  5. Take a walk outside if possible, notice the trees and plants growing
  6. Sing or hum a song
  7. Take a shower or bath, leisurely if possible
  8. Light a candle, have it next to you as you read
  9. Plan a short day trip, research places to see
  10. Go to the ocean or other body of water
  11. Skip stones
  12. Braid your hair
  13. Play with makeup
  14. Paint your nails
  15. Make sure to take care of yourself best you can
  16. Avoid downer clothes, put yourself together even if you’ll stay in most the day
  17. Use essential oils like lavender or orange blossom, dab it on wrists or temples.
  18. Use medicinal cannabis from time to time if its legal in your state
  19. Have a night cap

by Jolaoso Prettythunder, originally published on our Facebook page.


Missing out

Missing out

I spend my nights in the ER while my friends are out having fun

I admit it. I’ve felt pangs of jealousy before…  When I was a caregiver, I felt it pretty often sitting in the hospital. It seemed my grandparents and I frequented the emergency room. This is when jealousy flooded: “Why am I the only one my age I know in the position? None of my friends know how I feel. They’re out dancing and I’m here anxiously awaiting news from the doctor”…so on and so forth.  Of course I felt guilt for thinking such thoughts. I would then invalidate my feelings: How could I feel this way when my grandparent is the one truly suffering?

For some young adults, we can feel like we’re missing out on the shining milestones of life. This is especially true for young caregivers. It’s hard to not go into a dark place when we see people our age glistening in the sun. It is common to compare our lives to others; yet, it is a thief of peace. Comparison is a perception that our accomplishments carry less weight than those of the person next to us.

I would like to offer a few positive reframes that encourage us to focus on our own upward progression instead of what is happening in the lives of other people our age. I preface the points with the fact that I fall short to hold fast to these concepts just like anyone else.

1) Pain is temporary

What you are experiencing may feel like a lifetime of hardship, but it will not last forever. If you take notice, most difficult things in life are temporary. Pain is fleeting. When we choose to hold on to joy we are squelching the pain. In my profession I often see individuals who think there is no hope for a future which quickly leads to depressive symptoms such as isolating or apathy. To avoid unhealthy beliefs, ask yourself what situations or thoughts trigger the pain in order to manage, avoid, or prepare for such triggers. When you feel a good time to do so, express yourself through a healthy form of release. I personally love art as a form of expression. You can find emotion release art activities here if you are interested as well.

2) You have a right to strive for more

It’s easy to let fear or insecurity stop us in our tracks. Caregiving can easily exacerbate the everyday stress we face anyway, making goal attainment that much more difficult.  Nevertheless, you have every right to achieve your goals. There will be hardships and what feels like failures, but keep trying. Identify what contributes to any setbacks you have and explore ways to either avoid or work around such difficulties.

Assertiveness works well here. Let others know what you need from them to help you get to where you need to be. Even if they do not assist you, at least you voiced your needs. It takes a village to raise a child and it took one to help me too. I relied heavily upon my faith, my mother, and a close friend.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

3) Caregiving is enriching

Let’s reverse compare for a moment: As a young caregiver, what skills have you learned that some young adults do not own? For me, it was humility, patience, and advocacy. Through caregiving I learned the value of a human life and the importance of enjoying little, loving moments. I now have enormous gratitude for my hard-working elders. I see the importance of connectedness to others. As difficult as it is to redirect our thoughts to the positive, it is essential to our mental health and stability. Notice how caregiving has grown you as a person and/or professional.


Caregiving is a responsibility bestowed upon the strongest for the purpose of uplifting another. See yourself through the eyes of the person you’re caring for. You are learning something through this that will strengthen you in the many seasons of your life to come. Now that is something to be jealous of!


Caregiving is a responsibility bestowed

How do you fight the fog of depression?

How do you fight the fog of depression?

Get in touch with yourself

Sit down and think about what’s bothering you. Is it something you can address? Is it just the illness talking? I love reading autobiographies and memoirs to remind myself that everyone is just as mixed up as I am.

Fight anhedonia and be productive

Find things you enjoy

Many people find gardening, drawing, writing, and listening to music cathartic. Figure out what soothes you when you’re feeling hopeless.

Connect with a supportive circle of friends

Get professional help

Find a counselor you’re comfortable with. This is a process that usually takes a few tries, but it’s worth it.

Are you reading this thinking about how stupid and unhelpful these tips are? Sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do. Hyperbole and a Half does an amazing job of capturing the experience in Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two.


We’re all wired differently. Our goal isn’t to ‘fix’ anyone, it’s to help each other find joy and meaning in our lives. Remember, when it gets to be too much, contact a doctor. Keep reaching out until you find the help you deserve.