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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Your Dying Spouse 263 - Superstitions

We're linked with Messy Marriage's From Messes To Messages - please drop by for some great wedded wisdom!

The C Word.

If I don't say cancer, maybe it'll go away; maybe it won't be real.

Does that sound familiar? It's the way a lot of caregivers and patients deal with the crucible in which they find themselves...through superstition.

It's understandable...if one has a really good day, there's a natural desire to try to recreate it tomorrow, by doing certain things the same way, by not talking of other things...by creating a pattern of hope.

That's really what superstition is, in this case...creating a pattern of hope in the hope that it will somehow keep the bad stuff away.

One might be tempted to say it's a bad thing, and should be nipped in the bud, but consider this...once it's become a habit, uprooting it might do more harm than good.

For the patient, it will take time to heal, if those superstitions are ruthlessly stripped away...and in the case of a terminal illness there might not be time.

If your mate's got cancer and is happier not naming the disease, what good will come of forcing him or her to 'face' it? Yes, the truth will set you free, but what if that freedom comes at a cost of a certain peace that could be ripped away? Is it worth it?

Obviously, superstition can be carried to a ridiculous extreme..."step on a crack, break yo' mama's back" is an example.

But if your ill husband or wife has some small superstitious 'tics', ones that you notice but do no harm, I'd suggest you leave them alone.

I have one; Barb hung a calendar in the hallway, with pictures of dogs, and for some reason I took to touching my fingertips to my lips and then touching the nose of the 'dog of the month'. Why> I have no idea, but I felt better for it.

If you as a caregiver have superstitions that you recognize, don't get rid of them on principle, if they do no harm...but do talk to a counselor, or at least a trusted friend, about them. You're in a different position, you see...your spouse may die, but you're going to live on, and the superstitious coping mechanisms you've developed to help handle an illness may be counterproductive in the future you may not want to look at, the one that will exist after the death of your spouse. Dropping them will seem almost disloyal, because it's a connexion, however tenuous, with a cherished memory.

Sharing them, and having at least some nascent accountability, will keep small rituals of coping from becoming huge obstacles to a new life.

What do you think? Did you ever find yourselves superstitious in a crisis?

And today's musical theme is...well, I'm sure you can guess...

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. Great insight and advice, Andrew. I don't really deal much with this issue, but I know there are many who do--especially as you've pointed out here, the caregiver. Seems to me the cancer patient also might be tempted to cling to superstitions. I know there are many who've tried just about everything to possibly bring healing. It's one of those "open handed" prayer requests that I was talking about back at MM.

    And I think it's sweet that you've found yourself with something of a ritual as you walk by that calendar. That's a whole other category in my book--rituals that bring comfort. Maybe they are interlocked in some way, but in my mind they are worlds apart. Praying for you, Andrew!

    1. Beth, you're so right...both caregiver and patient are faced with such uncertainty that anything can become a slender reed to which to cling, in the belief that 'somehow' it will keep danger at bay.

      I'd love to have healing, but I've come to the realization that I'm doing exactly what God wants me to do. So I'm OK with death being the requirement for working in God's service; reading the New testament, I seem to be in good company.

      And yes, that ritual does add a bit of sweetness to the day. It requires intentionality, and for a moment removes me from beneath the burden of pain. And you're right - it is a world away from superstition. It's just a comfort.

      Thank you so much for the prayers!