I recently planned and facilitated a weekend retreat for Caregivers and one of the most challenging aspects in recruiting participants was that they had to secure coverage and care for their loved ones while they were away. Being away for one day was feasible, but preparing to be away for an entire weekend created more work than anticipated.
But because the need was so great for the Caregivers to care for themselves, family and friends pitched in and made it happen. The number one challenge of caregiving, outside of caring for one’s loved one, is making sure the caregiver is healthy, whole, and caring for themselves.
Once the word got out about a weekend away, there were dozens of people, particularly women, and women of color who rearranged their plans to ensure their participation.
The retreat was titled, “Cast Your Cares” a retreat for Caregivers, using the verse of scripture from 1 Peter 5:7 that reads “cast all your anxiety on him for He cares for you.”
Participants enjoyed their own private rooms where they could rest; feed their bodies with meals prepared for them; sit still; take walks; fellowship over wine and cheese; share their stories; hear from others; journal; receive prayer and hear from God.
Throughout the weekend participants were able to write down their cares and anxieties and literally cast them into a “Care Box.” There’s something quite powerful in putting pen to paper and seeing the “cares” on paper and then anecdotally letting them go.
Some of the cares casted include: Taking the time away for oneself; Worrying about the needs of others; Missing God’s voice and not fulfilling God’s will; Releasing Bitterness and Unforgiveness; Concern of who will care for me in my elder years; Resentment and Blame; My Health; the Suffering and Loss of my loved one; Feeling of Inadequacy and Failure; Uncertainties of Finances; How to recognize when to let go; Disappointment; Not being Enough.
It was so important for these women to gather in a safe and loving space where they could release and exhale. They were able to share authentically without judgment in the company of others who had similar experiences.
The entire weekend was cushioned around God’s love for them and opportunities were provided for them to bask in God’s presence with praise and worship and the fellowship of others. Nothing was asked of them other than to by faith, release their cares and allow God to care for them.
I have learned in my years of retreat facilitation that it’s important not just to have participants share their stories, which is huge, but even more significant, to fill those stories with stories of hope. Oftentimes our current narratives begin to define us and we can get stuck in our own stories. But like the Samaritan woman, who once she shared her “truth” was in a position to allow Jesus to give her a new story, a story that changed her life; a story that once shared with others, changed theirs as well.
In addition to allowing Jesus to give you a new story, a caregiver can experience the rest and support they need by:
1. Join other caregiver support groups - there's one on facebook called Raising Raisins.
2. Have a scripture or scripture story that anchors you, especially when things are challenging.
3. Be honest and know when you need a break; schedule something for yourself; make an appointment with yourself to rest, go to the gym, get a facial or massage, or take yourself to dinner.
Being a caregiver is a privilege and a humbling call on one’s life. It is definitely a season that for many, catches one in the midst of “doing life.” While it can, at times, seem impossible to navigate, there is always “Grace for the Day.” To journey with a loved one in their most critical time of need and care is a tremendous gift. I care for my own mother, and while it’s the hardest work I’ve ever encountered in my life, I’ve come to appreciate that it’s probably my most important work.
There are so many of us out here and I want to continue providing spaces for Caregivers to connect and share and have a community to which they belong and are encouraged. That’s why I’m working on having a monthly virtual and/or in person “Conversations with Caregivers” meet up. I am also working towards facilitating quarterly weekend retreats for those who can arrange to attend. Creating these atmospheres for sharing, fellowship, and prayer are game changers for those in the Caregiver world. It has been my absolute pleasure to provide these spaces.
I truly believe and know for myself how much God wants to continue caring for us and equipping us to care for others.
To find counseling for the caregiver visit www.faithonthejourneycounseling.com