Caregiver Burnout: Words that Break Us

caregiver burnoutPedro was ‘circling the drain’—his life hung in the balance and no one knew for sure how to stop the infections that waged war on his chemo-weakened body. The doctors had started using drugs they thought might work, and spending long minutes sitting on his bed, staring at him (it’s never a good sign when doctor takes the time to sit on a patient’s bed or when the nurses drop everything and runs to the room when the call button gets pushed).

My cell phone buzzed, and I hurried from the room to take the call. A family friend had come to visit, so Pedro wouldn’t be alone when I stepped out for a few minutes. I wish I hadn’t. Unkind words poured from someone I trusted. Someone I thought was safe and on my side berated me with bitter words for what they perceived to be my horrible actions of the night before.

I had allowed the family friend to spend the night in Pedro’s room while I had found a hotel and luxuriated in a decent night’s sleep for the first time in months. The impersonal hotel room and soothing soak in a bath had worked like balm to my broken thoughts and frantic worry. I had arrived back at the hospital feeling as if I could handle the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next decision.

Each hurtful word pierced my heart. Mesmerized, all I could do was listen and pray for wisdom and the ability to not utter hateful words back. After what seemed like hours, I muttered an apology and promised that I would call my tormenter the next time I felt the need for a break or feared I suffered from caregiver burnout.

Broken and wilted once again, I entered Pedro’s room. Our family friend looked up and smiled. “I’m so glad I could come and that you got a good night’s sleep,” he said. “You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of Pedro.”

I nodded numbly.

“May I pray with you before I leave?” he asked.

I nodded again and bowed my head. As our dear friend lifted Pedro and I up in prayer, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit draw close and pick the broken shards from my wounded heart. I knew without a doubt that whatever happened, God would heal my brokenness. And that was enough. It’s always enough. (tweet this)

Have you ever felt broken beyond words? Romans 8:25-27

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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