As a caregiver, you reach deep into your heart and soul every day to create a promise of tomorrow, even during the most painful times. You know, and you help others understand that life and hope are inextricably intertwined.
Hope is a crucial component of our reality and our practical needs. It is vitally important for our physical and mental health to understand that hope is essential to life. We hope for a friend’s recovery. But we also hope for sunny weather, or to find the right outfit, or even for a hole-in-one.
Our hopeful thoughts acknowledge that we expect to have a future, and that we believe in the potential for a better tomorrow.
“All caregivers feel hopeless from time to time, but losing hope was the worst trial I faced when I was caring for my dad. It seemed very unfair that no matter how disheartened I felt, my career and caregiving responsibilities remained the same.
Now I know that hope is connected to the broader world. When I lost my connection to others, I was so insulated that my problems seemed even more insurmountable. Interacting with people gave my mind a break – I call it respite for my mind. Whether I talk to someone about what’s bothering me or just take a mental break and forget about it for a few hours, I always feel better.
Life is tough for caregivers, and it’s important to not let the problems break your spirit. For me, that meant learning to face and accept bad news and transfer my hope to other things in my life that I can look forward to.”
Francine, New Mexico
“When I was a kid, my father used to tell me to stop hoping for things that I couldn’t have. He’d say, ‘Stop wishing for what isn’t, and pay attention to what is.’ I always answered, ‘Yes sir’, but I never stopped because I always thought he was wrong.
I’m 78 and I’ve been a caregiver for many years, first for my parents and now for my husband. You learn a lot about life when you care for your loved ones, and there is more to being a caregiver than just dealing with practical matters. You have to tend to your dreams too, no matter how far off they seem. Otherwise you take the chance of losing your capacity to hope.
How can you live a good life if you have no hope for your future?”
“My father taught me to be an optimist. Our family teased us saying, ‘Look out, here come the Good News Guys.’ A few months ago, my father lay dying and my daughter struggled with the difficult birth of her first child. My wife stayed with my daughter and I stayed with dad. Dad tried to console me saying, ‘It’s my time, Ed, who knows what great adventure I’ll find.’ I couldn’t be comforted. The nurse told me my wife was on the phone and that it was urgent. I could barely breathe.
When I returned, dad opened his eyes and said ‘Red’. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, and I knew what he meant. ‘Yes’, I answered and he smiled. ‘I knew it. Good News Guy’. Then he passed. My father had eight siblings and I have five. We were the only ones in the family with red hair – until my grandson was born. Optimism is who you are, not what you are experiencing. Hope lives within you and if it’s in your heart, you can keep it there forever.”
“My mother and father were always very affectionate with each other, but didn’t often show that physical warmth with me or my siblings, so we grew into a ‘non-hugging’ trio. When I became an adult, receiving ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ hugs from my friends and co-workers, I realized how much I’d missed. I’ve made it a point to be very physically close to my children and husband, but I never had the courage to change my physical relationship with my parents.
My mother recently had a stroke, and still has problems. We spend time together and try to do the things she loved before the stroke, including needlepoint. She can still stitch, but she needs help threading the needle, cutting, and knotting. Last week while we were working together, I found myself looking intently at her. She put her thread down and said, ‘Kim, what is it?’ Without thinking, I said ‘I love you and want to hug you.’ She smiled and said what I’d always hoped to hear. She said ‘I love you too’, and opened her arms.
Since then, we’ve been on a hugging binge! It’s as if a grey cloud that was over my head just blew away! I never realized how much this meant to me and how wonderful I would feel from following my heart.”
Kim, New Mexico