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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 251 - Don't Be Eeyore

Please don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Pooh's friend, that lovable and gloomy donkey. But the Eeyore mindset has no place in caregiving.

It's an easy trap; if you're predisposed to look at worst-case scenarios, and you see your husband or wife declining, it's very tempting to give what feels like reassurance: "It's OK, I've seen this coming for a long time. I expected this setback."

It feels like it should be comforting, but for many patients, it's not.

The patient may be walking a knife-edge of hope, unrealistic perhaps, but real to him or her. To suddenly be confronted with the knowledge of how this looks 'from the outside' can be a shattering blow, and one from which emotional recovery can be difficult.

The patient knows what's happening (except in cases in which mental faculties are compromised, when that may not be true). But it's a matter of how that information's processed that's the key. There comes a time - I know this well - when the only way to make it through the day is to metaphorically walk the sunny side of the street.

But what about you, the caregiver? Do you have to bottle up how you feel about what you're seeing? Do you have to let the knowledge that your spouse is fading fast eat out your heart to preserve the patient's fantasies?

Not as all. That's what friends, therapists, and support groups are for.

That's also what prayer and journaling are for.

Yes, you have to protect that fantasy to the degree you can, and it may feel like you're living a lie.

But it's better to live the lie than to pile on that one more bit of bad news that breaks the proverbial - and fragile - camel's back.

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update... been moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


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  1. What you describe applies to many facets of life, those times you have to live above the circumstances in order to survive. And there are friends who stay the course through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don't know what I'd do without them. Once the crisis is passed we look back and say, wow, how'd I get through that? Good post, Andrew.

    1. Norma, you're absolutely right. What would we do without those friends who've walked through our darkness by our side?

      Thanks so much for being here!

  2. This is so true, Andrew. I went through this when I was my dad's caregiver. It was such a learning experience physically, mentally and emotionally. This was a role that fell on me because you can say mom couldn't handle it well, she was fading fast in the doom and gloom. Me, being an Army officer, went into Army mode in a way to preserve the fantasy and my sanity. Because there was a lot that needed to happen. My biggest lesson was leaning on my friends and support group to talk about what was bottled up inside me, and those interactions left me feeling renewed and refreshed as a caregiver, which in turn allowed me to be a better one to my dad.

    1. Maia, thank you so much for sharing this. It's so true, that training and military culture can carry us though things that would break a civilian.

      And yes, support groups and friends are so very important. I can't imagine caregiving without that kind of supportive infrastructure.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  3. It's hard to "live in his world"; that is, in my case it is. I live from day to day, not knowing how I will be treated. As a caregiver, I realize what is happening; he doesn't. I try to just "go with the flow; actually, that's all I can do because we can't really discuss his dementia and how it's getting worse.

    But, I take one day at a time and when I need my space to grieve or to have my occasional "melt-down", I get alone somewhere and do so!

    Thank you for always putting into focus what is many times hard to do! Prayers always, for you and Barb!

    1. Barbara, thank you so much for sharing this, your experience. We're praying for you; dealing with worsening dementia is one of the hardest caregiving jobs there is.

      Thank you so much for your prayers, my friend!

  4. So good to think about, Andrew. That we DO need to feel discouraged, but we need to share it with people who are equipped to handle that burden. Our patient cannot handle it and we cannot handle it.
    We often abuse Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
    We rearrange it, then say, "Because I'm a Christian and have Christ, I can do all things (on my own)".
    Oh we don't mean to manipulate it, but this is where we find ourselves, over and over.
    I should be able to stand on my faith alone. I shouldn't be overwhelmed or exhausted. I'm not Christian enough.

    Fiddle Faddle and hogwash!

    That verse means that apart from Christ's eternal strength, we cannot handle or face even the most meager of challenges. He does not ever expect us to be strong in our own abilities. Mental strength comes from accepting that He is sufficient.

    So delighted to hear that you're on the sunny side. (can you hear the song now?)


    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbmQQ4RfzVE
      Here's the link if you can't hear the song in your head.

    2. Tammy, I have to confess that I was, for a long time, one of those who mis-used Phil 4:13! It was only fairly recently that I took a good look at the syntax and realized that the emphasis is on 'through Christ', and NOT 'do all things'.

      Ah, well, it takes time to learn.

      I do hear the song, and thank you for the link!

      We wish you a terrific start to 2017!