Daphne Reiley is the co-author of A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving. She is also a member of the pastoral care team at Sandy Springs Christian Church, in Sandy Springs Georgia, and provides spiritual support to shut-ins and caregivers.
After a long day filled with small successes and frightening setbacks, how do we as caregivers find a way to fall asleep and get the rest our bodies, minds, and souls need?
As caregivers, we are woven into a tapestry of many expectations—those of the one for whom we care, our own, even society‘s. The weight of those expectations bears down on us by the end of the day. So on days when our loved one doesn‘t recognize us or falls and injures herself, we end up that night reliving the day in our minds, looking for ways we failed. Yet, most of the time, there is simply nothing we could have done to have prevented the fall or other accident, and definitely not a cognitive slip in a progressively worsening mental disease! The habit of realistically and authentically reviewing our actions over the course of a day can help us gain control over these times of self-condemnation.
Having a relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit sustains us in our lives as caregivers. Without that healing relationship, we end up exhausted, followed fast by the onset of resentment, anger, guilt, and often depression. A discipline of spiritual practices forms our personal tapestry of support, replacing the tapestry of expectations, providing relief from and an understanding of the exhaustion that plagues caregivers. In A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving, Joseph LaGuardia and I discuss many spiritual practices that will help to form that tapestry of support. My personal favorite happens to be the practice of examen.
The more we submit to a grace-filled self-examination, the better we come to know ourselves. As we develop more authentic self-knowledge, we begin to see ways in which we judge others and ourselves harshly rather than recognizing common struggles compassionately. A good way of developing authentic self-knowledge is through a daily practice of examen.
The classic pattern of “Examen of Conscience” in the Roman Catholic monastic tradition involves five steps:
If you want to learn more about spiritual practices that are particularly helpful for caregivers, check out our website www.ATapestryofLove.com that contains blog posts, a resources page, and a link to order your own copy of A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving!