In the interest of full disclosure, I wouldn’t want anyone to thinks that caregiving contains miracle after miracle and daily evidence of God’s intervention (although those things did happen time and time again).
Nor would I want anyone to think that caregivers live in a sheltered super-power-type world where quotidian concerns fall away while a halo slips into place.
Not at all.
I’m disgustingly human.
When I read back over my journals from my caregiving journey, some days sounds like I’d checked into a whinery. You know, whine to God about this and whine to God about that.
The second thing I know for sure about caregiving (the first is the God will be with you all. the. time) is this: whatever relationship quirks and quarrels you had with people or relatives BEFORE cancer will rear their ugly heads DURING cancer.
If Uncle Bob drove you crazy with his interfering, managing ways at family reunions, Uncle Bob’s reaction to cancer in your family with play out true to form: he’ll try to manage things and pluck your last, thin little nerve with all his observations, suggestions and passive-aggressive harrumphs when his ‘wise counsel’ is ignored.
If Suzie Citizen likes to boss family gathering details from dawn to dusk, chances are, she’ll take the credit for every miracle that happens and every moment YOU spend with a loved one.
And if you have a distant relationship with a close family member—cancer won’t likely bridge the gap when your family enters crisis mode (some people feel helpless in a crisis and don’t know what to do—and that’s ok).
If you’ve never learned to set healthy boundaries, a caregiving journey might increase your stress level exponentially. That’s where I found myself when Pedro’s catastrophic phase of illness struck. I’d read about boundaries. I may have tried to set a few. But if you don’t have any practice, well, a time of crisis causes untold frustrations.
For example, how to shield Pedro from certain people who would disrupt the healing process while at the same time keeping the people in the loop? With Pedro’s consent, I came up with a Draconian plan of protection that I knew in my head was necessary, but felt in my heart that it was maybe just a little over-the-top.
We asked all friends and family members to NEVER mention in public where Pedro received treatment (much easier to do in the pre-Caringbridge and pre-Facebook era). I wrote update letters to the people in question and mailed them from different airports that I traveled through. I wrote letters to friends and enclosed letters to the aforementioned people to be mailed from my friends’ city of residence.
And that’s ok. Sometimes (despite some people’s belief that they are entitled to every dirty detail of your distress), you have to do what’s best for the patient and for you. But it was hard—especially when those people involved my friends and tried to convince my friends to pressure me to reveal the place of Pedro’s treatment.
And so I whined a lot. A litany of pleas for patience. Repeated prayers FOR the ones who caused me emotional and mental anguish by their actions. Repeated prayers for deliverance from the distractions their machinations caused.
In reading through my journals, I’ve discovered that I sounded an awful lot like David—one part praise and one part whine with a few solid shout-outs to God’s power thrown in.
Maybe that’s why, even years later, Amy Grant’s song “Better than a Hallelujah” makes me cry every time I hear it. Just typing the title brings tears to my eyes.
But I’ll post a link to the video, because as much as it makes me cry, it shares the truth. God can handle our neurosis. God can handle our whines. God can handle our anger and our pain and our complaints and moaning and groaning that words can’t even express. (tweet this)
He loves us. He wants to share in everything with us. He longs to comfort us. He longs to be our hope and our salvation and our Father.
You can find the rest of the Comfort for Caregiver series here.