Parents in Pain Need to Make Time for Respite

Wow.  It’s been over a month since my last post!  That’s hard to believe.  My dad had some health challenges and passed away last month.  He was 92 and such a precious man.   One of a kind.  The best father a kid could ever hope to have.  His was a life well lived.  He loved well and left quite a legacy.  I was so blessed.  My mom died 15 years ago, and I have no brothers or sister, so now it is just me from my original family of origin.

Feels strange.  I have been mourning this loss deeply.  He lived with my husband and me these last 6 years, until about 9 months ago when his health failed and he couldn’t be left alone anymore.  Then he moved into an Assisted Living home not far from us.  So I am deeply grieving his death.  Feels so odd to no longer have any parents.  Kind of like an orphan.  It’s a very different feeling and I feel a little lost.  Not quite myself.

So this journey through grief has reminded me again that this is what we hurting parents who are dealing with children who have a mental illness, an addiciton of any kind, any self harming behaviors (cutting, eating disorders, etc.), are in jail or prison, have any sexual identity issues, and the list goes on and on.  We feel this pain most of the time.  This loss.  This aching of heart and soul that affects both the body and the mind.

Loss of sleep.  Fatigue and low energy.  Not quite ourselves.  Decreased ability to concentrate and focus.  Functioning at reduced capacity with a diminished ability to handle any extra stress. Fragile, yet flat emotionally.  Tears come easily and sometimes unexpectedly, not knowing what your triggers are going to be until they confront you.  Then there you are a puddle of tears.

What we need is to give ourselves permission to make time for some respite.  The dictionary defines respite as: “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.”  Oh boy, how we need this!  Talk about difficult and unpleasant!  Yikes!  Take time to pull back.  To rest when we can.  Do less.  To take it easy.  Al Anon says, “Easy does it.”  Be kind to yourself.  Say no to what we would usually say yes to.

It’s ok.  We can do this!  It’s temporary.  It’s for a season, until we can regain our equilibrium and rebuild our strength again.   We need to do what replenishes us, what refreshes us.  Can you remember what those things are?   For me it is being out in nature, listening to music I love, taking a nap when I can, watching a favorite movie, reading a good book, having tea with a friend, taking a long walk early in the morning, working in the yard, going garage sailing.

I also like to have extended times alone with God to read the Bible and just rest in his presence, letting him love me.  So renewing and life-giving for me.  An occassional outing to the beach works wonders for me, too!  I even got to go sailing this week with my co-workers!  Wow, was that ever replenishing!

What refreshes you?  Where and how do you find respite?  I challenge you to get out a piece of paper and start making a list.  Then plan some of those things into your life, even just a little.  Are you an artist?  Play an instrument?  Have a long-lost hobby?  Camping, fishing, hiking, shopping (uh, oh!).  What is fun to you?  Restful?  Refreshing?  Go do it.  Like Nike’s ad says, “Just do it.”  Yes . . . plan it, be intentional about it and do it!  (unless it is not in your budget!)  And if you can’t think of anything, bring it up in conversation at work or with your friends/family and get ideas from them.  Your list will be growing before you know it!  You might even want to try some new things you’ve never done before!

I really like these passages from the Bible on this topic:  “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”  (Psalms 62:5)  Also, Exodus 33:14 reads, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Then Jesus himself said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  Even God rested on the 7th Day after He did his creating work.  “. . .  on the seventh day He rested . . .” (Genesis 2:2)

I find respite in God first, then He helps me find it in other places in His world, too.  I hope you will find it and make time for it, too!  If you are a parent in pain, you really need it!