With Father’s Day coming my dad has been on my mind. He lived until he was 92 and was a precious man. One of a kind. The best father a kid could ever hope to have. He lived a full life. He loved well and left a legacy to be proud of. I was truly blessed to call him my father. My mom died almost 26 years ago, and I have no brothers or sisters, so I’m the only one left from my family of origin.
How strange to have no one in your life who shares your childhood memories or those of your parents. The grief I experienced at the loss of my last remaining parent was painful. My sweet dad lived with my husband and me for 6 years until his health failed and he couldn’t be left alone anymore. Then he moved into an assisted living home not far from us. I thought I was prepared for his death, but when that day came, the loss was still heavy.
My journey through grief reminded me of you. Hurting parents whose children struggle with mental illness, an addiction of any kind, self-harming behaviors (cutting, eating disorders, etc.), are in jail or prison, have sexual identity issues, etc., are also grieving. Did you know that?
We feel the pain of grief most of the time. This loss, this aching of heart and soul, affects both the body and the mind.
What we experience is the same as though our children have died:
- Loss of sleep.
- Fatigue and low energy.
- Feeling “off”, not like ourselves.
- Decreased ability to concentrate and focus.
- Functioning at reduced capacity with a diminished ability to handle extra stress.
- Fragile and dull emotionally.
- Physical symptoms: headaches, backaches, high blood pressure, intestinal issues
- Easily irritated.
- Depression and anxiety; possibly panic attacks.
- Tears come easily, sometimes unexpectedly, not knowing what the triggers are until they happen.
PERMISSION FOR RESPITE
What we need is to give ourselves permission to make time for respite.
The dictionary defines respite as: “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.”
Oh, how we need relief from the difficult and unpleasant experiences we’ve endured. Dear friend, please take time to pull back. To rest when you can.
Do less. Take it easy. Al-Anon has a great slogan I like. “Easy does it.” I think this means we need to be kind to ourselves. It’s alright to say no to what we would usually say yes to.
It’s okay. We can do this. This is a temporary season until we regain our equilibrium and rebuild our strength. We need to develop the habit of doing what replenishes and refreshes us. Can you remember what that is? Refreshment for me is being out in nature, listening to music I enjoy, taking a nap when I need it (almost daily now that I’m getting older), 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, or going to garage sales. An occassional outing to the beach works wonders too. Sometimes I’ll go to a local plant nursery to gaxe at the flowers, taking in their beauty.
Extended time alone with God also replenishes my soul. Reading the Bible, resting in his presence, and letting him love on me are what I need. Being silent and still before him. Doing this renews me. It’s life-giving. I always return home refreshed in a deep way.
What refreshes you? Can you remember? Where and how do you find respite? I have a challenge for you. Get out a piece of paper and make a list. Then plan some of those activities into your weekly schedule, even a little.
Are you an artist? Then paint, draw, color (there are so many cool adult coloring books these days), or go to a museum.
Do you play an instrument? Then get out your guitar, clarinet, or drums, and play it. Sit down at the piano or keyboard and go for it.
Are you a singer? Sing those songs you enjoy. Listen to your favorite music. Go to a concert, if possible. Spring a summer brings free concerts in local parks. I’m a flutist and used to play in a local municipal band. Those were fun concerts in the summertime.
Is exercise your thing? Go for a run, a walk or get back in the gym.
Maybe you have a long-lost hobby? Camping, fishing, hiking, crafting, wood-working, antiquing, photography? Resurrect it and begin again.
What is fun to you? Restful? Refreshing?
Like Nike’s ad says, “Just do it.” Plan ahead and make time for what you want to do. You’ll need to be intentional about this. Maybe ask someone to hold you accountable. And if you can’t think of anything, pray and ask God for ideas. Then you could bring up the idea in conversation at work, with your friends or family, and get suggestions from them. With their help, you’ll end up with a list of ideas. You might even want to try something new you’ve never done before!
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
These passages from the Bible encourage me to make time for respite. They remind me that God wants us to rest in him; from our worries and our work. I hope these verses encourage you too:
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalms 62:5 NIV)
“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14 NIV)
Jesus himself said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
Even God rested on the seventh day after He did his creation work. “… on the seventh day He rested …” (Genesis 2:2 NIV)
My respite is in God first, then He helps me find rest in other places in His world. I hope you will find ways to be refreshed and make time for it too. If you are a parent in pain, you need to.
My husband and I read this post together. Respite will keep our relationship with the Lord and each other strong and prevent us from dwelling on our pain. Thank you.
Yes, Marie, you are so right. Making time for respite can keep your relationship with the Lord and each other healthier and help you not be consumed with your pain. You’ve got it! I’m so sorry for waht you are going through. I pray God will bless and comfort your hearts.
Dena your amazing. Your daily prayers and your work in Hope for Hurting Parents are forever life changing. This article is absolutely what I needed today. Thank you and your Husband for all your incredible work.
Donna, you are so kind to send this message. I really appreciate it. We’re humbly grateful that God would use us in any way to help him change lives! I’m so glad this post was what you needed. Isn’t God amazing?
Sending hugs, Dena