“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.
As CareGivers, we indeed lay down our lives for a loved one or friend, the CaredFor. Whether we do so out of choice or obligation or guilt, we lay aside major concerns of our own lives – family, career, retirement, security – in order to care for another.
CareGivers then also lay aside another major concern: caring for themselves. Using some form of a logic that defies common sense, the CareGiver believes that taking care of the CaredFor is a ‘prime directive’ to be accomplished at all costs. Slowly this translates into it’s OK not to care for myself as long as I am using my energy to care for the CaredFor.
What CareGivers fail to recognize is that you can’t give what you don’t have. If you are not well, how can you care well for another?
A recent study on teaching math showed that math teachers who were uncomfortable with math transferred that feeling to their students. Those students developed an aversion to math.
Similarly, if a CareGiver is uncomfortable with their role in taking care of another, it will transfer to the person they are caring for.
What I have learned in taking care of my mother and as a hospice volunteer is that I need to empty myself of any expectations before interacting as a care giver. Part of caring for myself is to become aware of my unexamined beliefs I hold about caring for another.
Am I aware that my attitudes affect how I do the tasks of care taking?
Am I aware that I expect my actions to produce an immediate result in the healing of the CaredFor? Is it any wonder then that I feel disappointed when I don’t see any immediate changes?
Am I aware that being present to the CaredFor, without expectations, without an agenda, is the best gift I can give?
I have been told that listening to someone in way which allows that person to know they have been heard is the greatest gift one person can give to another.
CareGivers, it is selfish not to care for yourself first! When you don’t care for yourself first, eventually the care giving becomes about you as you attempt to give what you don’t have. When you are cared for, you can freely give. You can move attention away from yourself to focus on the CaredFor.
Peace & Joy