|This is a very exciting time for me. It is a time for new beginnings, a time for empowerment, a time to live my life more fully, and a very important time for me to share my experiences with others'.. like yourselves so that you might heal and grow from these insights. I don't have all the answers. I share with you from my heart felt experiences.
The caregiving challenge has been placed before me through the early 80's until the present with many, close, loved ones. In the early eighties I lost my husband and our cat to cancer at the same time. Many close friends passed of Aids throughout the decade. At this time, the word "caregiver" had not even existed.
In the interim, I was also dealing with my own immune system breakdown from the emotional stress and the issues at hand, for quite a number of years. My breakdown supported me in going inward to heal emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
This evolutionary transformation led me to more challenges in the early nineties when my father became terminally ill with cancer. It was a time that I consciously chose to heal my relationship with him on all levels.
My father and I were both very energetically, or psychically connected, call it what you may. My Father was under the hospice care program and as he was nearing his transition, my mother almost died, because she had burned out from her role as a caregiver to him for two solid years. To make matters even worse, my little soulful cat, Precious, who was twelve years old, became critically ill on the day my father was buried.
Just as I was beginning to accept the idea that my role of Caregiving was finally over another nine months of caring for Precious wiped me out even more. Precious was treated for cardiomyopathy requiring innumerable emergency visits on a weekly basis to keep him at a constant comfort level. I learned there was a lot more ahead with no time or room to breathe.
The past three years since my father's passing in '95 has challenged me as caregiver for my mother on numerous occasions as well for Precious and my other cat Magi. Now, it is time for me to take care of me again..
I use the terms caretaking and caregiving because while they both are sometimes used synonymously, they are very different in meanings, I know that I found myself hanging out in both realms of these processes for almost fifteen years. The truth is that both are focused around helping another one where there is dependency.
However caretaking is about giving with compassion and assisting. Many caregivers take on more responsiblity than they can handle. Some times the reasons one gives are for approval, acceptance, out of guilt, feeling responsible or obligated. It is important that you give unconditionally with awareness and compassion; but it is equally as important to take responsibility for caring for yourself and having your own needs met. Caregiving is about nurturing yourselves and having your own needs met first, so that you can better give to the individual you are caring for.
Unfortunately in most circumstances when we are put in the position of having to caregive a loved one, it is something that is delivered to us smack between the eyes. Most of us turn into the role of a caregiver, overnight, at the result of an immediate diagnosis. There is usually very little time if any, to think about it or make decisions. We are usually thrown into it; to face it the best that we can. At times, it feels like it wasn't about choice. We need to know that all our decisions are about choice.
I do know that while I was going through these various stages of caregiving and healing, that I sought out as much help and support as I could. It was not until my father's diagnosis, that I put myself into therapy so that I could better deal with everything I was picking up empathically from both of my parents.
In therapy, my therapist encouraged me to journal everything I was experiencing and feeling. I began with quite a commitment to do so and wrote for approximately three years. Julia Cameron's book, 'The Artist's Way, was the basis of my journal experience at the time. The writings were so profound that I was encouraged by many friends and published authors to turn the writings into a manuscript form. (It is in manuscipt form at this time awaiting for the right publisher.)
I read more and more books. There was so little information out on an eclectic level. There were books that describe the stages of dying and what it was like for the patient, there were books on this and that, but none seemed to fit the pictures of what I had been experiencing. I didn't own a computer at the time either, so I was unaware of the vast resources that were available online through the Internet as well as through private services like AOL, COMPUSERVE, PRODIGY, ETC.
Many a time I came from a victim attitude, but I always stayed focused on creating choices that would take me away from this faulty belief pattern. It was full time work, just keeping myself centered and focused to create these experiences as powerful, learning and healing tools for myself as well as my loved ones. I constantly prayed for guidance and direction to be used as a vehicle for the highest good of all concerned whether it was for my parents, my family, my animals, friends or just for me. I knew deep within myself that the most important lesson I was learning and conveying to my family was listening to my heart and opening to love. I was determined to serve for the highest spiritual good of all I came in contact with.
As I look back, I have no regrets. My father was so open, so loving, so expressive of his love to us before his passing. My Mother who is very much alive today, still grows, heals and evolves every day. Just the other day she gave me one of the most incredibly warm, loving, nurturing hugs. When she finished she looked at me and said, "You know Gail, I don't even have to ask you now, if you know that I love you." I looked at her as she spoke in amazement. She continued, "the most important thing is how I feel inside when I am hugging you and loving you and appreciating who you are after all these years. I am more loving and it feels wonderful." I stood looking at my mother with tears rolling down my cheeks. It is never too late to heal and to discover the most important healing power, the power of Love!
It is with this all in mind, I encourage you to join in on this journey of empowerment. Leave yourself open to the healing process each of you will undergo as you relate to the experiences that we share in the chat room, newsletters, message boards, through your journal exercises and more.
For those of you who have lost a loved one(s) unresolved issues may heal.
For those of you in the process of caregiving a loved one, feel and listen to the emotions speaking to you from within your own heart. Feel them without judgment for there is no right or wrong. Let the experiences touch and guide you.
Take time to become the initiator-the one who takes the first step towards healing. Do whatever is necessary to nurture yourself so that you remain focused through your challenging situations that are before you. Reach out for the support you need emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Share your experiences from your own life as well with others to help yourself and serve others as well.
For those of you who contemplate the idea that one day you will be faced with caregiving a loved one, know that there is nothing to fear. Keep your heart open to serve only with love.
I would like to offer Empowering Caregivers as an opportunity to create a safe space where you can come to work through issues on a positive level. Leave your victim at the entrance to the chat room or while you are reading the newsletter. ( If your victim slips in, we will support it, but encourage you to move past it, to see larger picture that awaits you.) It is also possible to convene in a private chat area following the chat to address those who are in need of more support.
Like wise, your writings, submissions, sharing of experiences, facilitator links to other chats and sites are all welcome to be included in all future mailings.
Remember, the EMPOWERING CAREGIVERS site is for you. The success of it depends on your participation and your willingness to have it unfold with love, light, caring and integrity.
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