Sunday, February 10, 2019

On Snow, Aging and Grief

"Snow.  It's taking over the world."   Lincoln, my six-year-old grandson, used those words two days ago to describe the scene before us.  Eight inches of snow in a week and more coming.

"It's all about snow," he said.  In Seattle snow closes schools, shuts down church services and slows traffic to a halt. Because we seldom see snow in volumes, and because we have so many hills to navigate, we can't cope.

Have you or a loved one experienced a personal snowstorm?  A debilitating accident, a lingering illness, a strained relationship or the death of a loved one?  If so, you understand.  That loss grinds life to a stop, and seems insurmountable.  Like my grandson, you may say, "It's taking over my world."

As we age, our losses can pile up like four-foot snowdrifts, laden with grime that can leave our hearts cold to the world around us.  That's true of us, of our friends and of our aging loved ones.

So what do we do about those losses?  Each of us has unique ways of handling grief in its many forms, and compounded grief, which cuts even deeper.  A few hours after I started this post, I learned that a dear friend Lupe had passed after a long bout with cancer.  Another friend is battling ALS.  So as I think about grief and share ways of dealing with it, I'm talking to myself.  The caveat is I'm not a grief counselor, just a woman slogging through life and trying to make the best of it.

Here are possibilities for dealing with grief:

1.  Slow down.  When grief is fresh, we can go into anxiety mode.  Long term, that doesn't help.  The quicker we can cut extras out of our lives, the better.  Taking advantage of the slower pace allows our bodies to begin to heal.  Yesterday when I learned about Lupe's passing, I was a basket case.  Mrs. Anxiety, with a to-do-list way longer than my strength.  My first mode of attack was to take a nap.  I slept  enough to calm myself.

2.  Identify the "snowstorm."  Is your grief anticipatory as you see your loved one changing due to chronic illness?  Or are you grieving the loss of abilities you used to have?   Or is losing a life mate or dear friend leaving a hole in your heart?  Or maybe you've lost a dream.  Perhaps it's all of the above and feels like an avalanche has hit you broadside.

3.  Decide how you will proceed to navigate the loss.  Reaching out to others is always goodI've participated in caregiver support groups which are amazing in helping people shun isolation and connect with others.  As people share, they often say, "The grief is still there, but it's not as intense, and I don't feel alone."  Other ideas:  sharing with a friend, going to a grief support group, walking or doing other physical exercise, reading, putting words on paper.  Still other ways to combat grief are baking special recipes, planting trees in memory of your loved one and of course participating in a memorial service.  Do what works, and you'll find more ideas.

4.  Turn to God in prayer.  When grief snowballs, I read the Bible, specifically the psalms.  David spills out his pain to God in what are called Psalms of Lament.  They are raw and unpolished.  David rails over the injustices of life:  inequality, sickness, conflict in his country, etc.  Despite grief and pain, David knows that God is holding Him, and the world, in His hands.  And God will care for us, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Book Review: Reaching Beyond the Rail: The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Caring for Mom and Dad


Book launches are a hoot for me.  And the one last November at Shoreline Community Church was no exception.  Sue Stults, author of Reaching Beyond the Rail:  The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Caring for Mom and Dad" stood before her audience beaming.

Sue is a patient care advocate and founder of Compelled by Compassion. Since her mother and father's passing, she has used what she learned as a caregiver and from other sources to help others through workshops, support groups, one-on-one mentoring and counseling.

I'm always fascinated by book titles.  Reaching Beyond the Rail refers to the close relationship adult children and others forge with their loved ones.  Caregivers reach beyond the rail--of the walker, of the wheelchair, of the hospital bed--to provide sustenance, care and support.  But what about the caregiver's needs?

The book aims to answer the question,  "What will you do when your loved one becomes ill, or when your aging parents need you to help care for them?"

Stults' 373-page hardcover book dovetails with her previous title, "The Personal Health Care Manual"  which encourages caregivers to be proactive, gathering specific information in a binder for future use.  That information includes doctor's names and phone numbers, insurance information, medication list, recent physician's notes, power of attorneys, etc.

This new book has a lot of solid emotional advice, such as "Your parent never deserves shaming, scolding or harsh discipline." And,"One way to be an intentional and active listener is to watch your parent's facial expressions as they talk about their day."

All in all, the most important task when dealing with an aging parent, is to provide respect, honor and dignity.

Sue also has a "quiz" of sorts, in which she asks readers to list the various challenges their loved one faces.  As time goes on, she suggests they revisit the list and make changes, placing the challenges in order of difficulty, from the most difficult to the least difficult.

One mantra running through the book is "Eat, sleep, and breathe."  If caregivers get so tired they can't do these things, they can run aground.

Another interesting section involves the grief that we all face in life.  In Sue's"Grief Timeline, she asks people to list their significant losses in chronological order, periodically examining the list to see which are still sparking pain and which seem to be resolved.

This is a good read that should help many in their journey through caregiving.  You can purchase the book through Compelled by Compassion.
Sue Stults, Reaching Beyond the Rail







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