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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Transformational Caregiving

Sep 01, 2014 04:23AM ● By David Davis

DThis is the kind of article written of necessity, upon finding oneself at one of life’s unanticipated crossroads, the kind that gratitude reminds us is essential for our spiritual expansion. We who take care of our husbands and wives, afflicted by the tragic illness of dementia or Alzheimer’s, understand, perhaps in a way very few others can, how our lives, dreams, and desires have been hijacked by a cruel and vicious twist of fate. We have wordlessly and anonymously shared the sadness across unfamiliar distances to the point that a community has taken root where one did not previously exist. This community understands a common struggle, having been tethered to each other by tears.

We have an opportunity to reach across the exhaustive wasteland of emotion laid bare by sorrow and lend an uplifting hand to each other. Explore instead those inner resources of our own that become the wellspring for patience, understanding (in its broadest context), and peace. We deserve to experience the peace so elusive since the pivotal circumstance of our lives shifted so dramatically. And even more broadly, we ask, or should ask, that this part of our life’s journey contribute to our healing. As caregivers, we find our hearts, bodies, and even our souls can easily become the battleground where the ravages of stress can leave the landscape scarred. 

Perhaps, for so many, a reckoning came when confronted with the statistic from the Alzheimer’s Association that 63 percent of caregivers will die before the loved ones they care for do. Our awareness, maximally dilated, should immediately and vociferously reject this notion. Surely statistics like that hold sway to those who see themselves as victims of vicious circumstances. That is not a reality that we should subscribe to. The opportunities inherent in illness, that all aspects of illness, and in all the roles of those involved, carry the seeds for transformation if they are carried to fruition on the wings of self-effort and grace. Many of us have witnessed people who routinely express a sickly spirit through a sound body, and conversely, held the hands of people who lay claim to peace and contentment as their final breaths found escape from their disease-ravaged flesh.

We give care, but sadly we often do not take care. As caregivers, it is incumbent upon us to give care to ourselves as well as our loved ones. To give care is to offer love freely and to provide compassion in its most tangible forms. There is information in abundance that underscores how meditation, prayer, contemplation, exercise, eating healthy, proper rest and personal time naturally foster our replenishment. The single greatest factor in that statistic mentioned above is the feeling caregivers express that they are too stressed to engage in their own well-being.

Our lives are an opportunity to recognize the sacred in the mundane. Being a caregiver to a stricken loved one can narrow our focus until the rest of the world falls away in a blur. Our circumstances then stand in the foreground with the clarity of immovable objects. Let us not forget that caregiving is a microcosm for the totality of our lives. It funnels the challenges and struggles, the sorrow and the anger, the fear and the resentment into a compressed space and time. Yet it brings the opportunity for growth, awakening, strength and vision into the very same moment. We get to choose in each moment what we identify ourselves with. Do we hitch our emotional wagon to the small and mundane, to circumstance and outcomes? Do we see ourselves as severely limited by exhaustion and inability? Or do we understand that life is filled with opportunities never in short supply? Do we recognize that, in the process of caregiving, we are reclaiming our path to compassion and love, patience and understanding?

Who we are determines how well what we do works. We have to remember that we are born with the capacity to experience life in a deep and profound way. Circumstance mustn’t bind, but liberate us.

David Davis, DC, practices at Odyssey Chiropractic & Wellness Center, Ridgefield. Connect with him at 203-431-7779 or [email protected].