Let's talk about the spiritual aspect of caregiving.

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A number of comments lately have mentioned or alluded to the hope of gaining something spiritually from the experience of caregiving. That idea always resonates with me, and I'd like to explore it a little more.

I've been a caregiver in a number of different situations - for a lover, two close friends, two siblings, and a parent. I have found deep satisfaction in all of those situations, EXCEPT for the most part in caring for my mother.

I think for many people, illness and dependency strips away artifice, and allow a person to allow himself/herself to be unusually vulnerable. For the caregiver, it allows you to connect very deeply with the person, to tend to their needs, shield their vulnerabilities, and soothe their pain and their fear. Being chosen by someone when they're most vulnerable and in need feels like a great honor, and being with them in their time of need feels like an amazing privilege. I cherish the memories I have, of a dear friend allowing me to shower her when she was disabled after surgery on her shoulder, of my sister calling me with the flu and saying right out "I need help. Will you help me?" I remember washing another friend's hair in her hospital bed when she was laid up from surgery. These are not interactions that we normally don't experience in everyday life, and they're very special.

Then there's my mother. I find it impossible to get much satisfaction out of helping her, and I think it's because of her overwhelming sense of entitlement and her need to control everything. I don't think she lets herself be vulnerable except as a manipulation, when she can't get away with outright demanding something. I think she can't stand to think of herself as needy (or think of anyone else as having any autonomy or choice), so she presents her needs as demands and expectation, and it's impossible to feel good about meeting them.

I keep thinking back to something the author M. Scott Peck said, about how love is the willingness to extend oneself for one's own or another person's spiritual growth. He also said that a loving person must be careful not to waste their love on those who are capable of benefitting spiritually. That's the situation I feel I'm in with my mother - wasting my love on someone who is incapable of benefitting spiritually. I can satisfy her material needs, but that doesn't satisfy me in any way. I want that deep closeness, that connection, and I think it's like electricity. Unless there's a complete circuit, it won't flow at all. That's my love for my mother, stopped at the source.

Sorry for the rambling. Maybe enough to spur others of you to share your thoughts?

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There's also a huge difference between momentary helping and someone borrowing your life for many years. After so many years and total loss of my old life, I have no idea what I'm going to do when my mother dies... if I don't die first. It's starting to look like that is a possibility. At 90, she's as strong as I am at almost-65.
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Donna, no need to apologize. All are free to rant to their heart's content on this and any other thread as far as I'm concerned. I actually couldn't figure out who or what your post was directed to, but never mind. Feel free to write whatever is true for you; the rest of us will deal with it.
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Veronica, I too like what you said about letting others help. I'm one of those who is constantly looking for people to help when I'm out and about my day. People who can't reach the high shelves (I'm tall), kids and dogs who appear lost, old people who look lonely, cashiers who appear overworked and harried, other drivers desperately trying to enter the flow of traffic where nobody will let them in.

There is something about using your own agency to bring a little good into the world, that is lost when your services are expected and demanded. It is my mother's denial of my agency, rather than her lack of appreciation, that makes it so difficult to do for her, and so unpleasant. It's her "I need to stop at the liquor store." rather than "Would you mind stopping at the liquor store?" that makes helping her a totally different (and noxious) experience for me.
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Veronica, what you said about letting others help is so true. I'm a very independent person and my first impulse is to say that I don't need help. But I know that other people need to help others. So I accept the help and say thank you so much. It is a two-way thing. I also enjoy helping others and feel chastised when they won't let me. I know other people are like that, too.
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Somehow I missed this thread but it has given me a lot offend for thought.
I was spared the task of having to care for either of my parents. My mother once said to me "your will be sorry when I am gone" Well I was not and almost 40 yrs later I am still not.
Spirituality religious or not is still a mystery. To me I was able to connect to some people who were dying but not others. It was like the electricity that someone mentioned.
I hate to say this but some of the ministers who visited at or before the death did not seem to be very spiritual. Several seemed just to be there to make the sure the memorial donations were all directed towards their ministries even though the patient may have other wishes.
Since I was become less able to care for myself I have been astonished and very grateful for the care of strangers. Those that open doors, offer to carry groceries or reach items on high shelves. I have always been very independent and try to tackle things for myself so it is hard to accept this help but always make the effort to smile and say 'thank you" There really are lots of good people in this world.
Spirtiuality comes from within as does love, neither can be faked. It is still possible to respect the elders and take good care but it is important to respect our true feelings.
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I'm sorry about the narcissist rant...
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The very next day of my post, after being in the ER with Mom the Thursday 12-30-16, I slept overnight on Mom's couch to make sure she was alright. The next day I made her breakfast, and we went grocery shopping to our favorite place: Trader Joe's, then lunch out. We got to her home around 3:30. I hugged her and kissed her goodbye and went off to my place to pack. Tried to call her but there was no answer. Well, she's recovered and busy, I bet. I went to Maine. Tried to call her, no answer. Turns out Mom died that Friday night in her sleep, in her bed with her new bedspread, all cuddled up with a smile on her face. The managers from the Indep Living place found her on Monday.

God had listened to my pleas in every way. I begged that she passes on in her sleep without pain or struggle. She did. I didn't want to be there. I wasn't. I was with two best friends in Maine. As soon as my sister called I let out a wail of sorrow, shock, and pain, but I also felt God's presence in the two friends who stood there, outside giving me long tender hugs. One was going to leave from our visit and I was praying he'd stay a day longer. His car had a problem and he had to get it fixed and had to stay a day longer. It just happens it happens just so God's handwriting was all over it embellished with his smile and the peace Mom and I felt inside.

Now it's just about a week later. I am rapidly returning to my happy self. I did the best I could. Mom was the best she could be. And the service the Indep Living place gave was amazing. I orchestrated it with the two weeping managers who adored my mother. I bought a bright variety of flowers and colors and we put little stages of things about my Mom. Over 50 residents and other locals came and all were weeping and storytelling, hugging and sharing how my mother made them laugh, touched their hearts, inspired them, amazed them with her feisty, funny, annoying, aggressively friendly, no boundaries manners! It was a most healing time! Only two local cousins of mine, on my father's side of the family, attended. My brother didn't think it was worth coming to! My sister is in Fl.
My Dad is tottering in a home in CT with Dementia.

I have survived the caregiving roller coaster ride after all, with my love for my mother intact underneath all the turmoil that churned up in me. God lifted us both up.
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I don't know who the narcissist is in your comment. But, caring for your parent is tough. Emotionally you are scared and worried, physically it is exhausting and dealing with another persons business can be frustrating.
I am aware that my comments: monster, mean, difficult and not loving are negative; but my siblings would verify that. I love my Mom inspite of those things. She was the youngest of 9 children, I'm the oldest of 5...
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There is a spiritual significance to care giving. I think one has to be able to be selfless and humble and spiritual to be a caregiver. It is a difficult role and even more so with a naricissist.

There is a spirtiual aspect in life, period. At some point in my life i began to feel that my mother was possessed by a demon. It was because I could not phanthom a mother doing the things she was doing to me over and over. These things and feelings bought me closer to God. And being closer to God makes me able and is my refuge when she does the same old ugly thing in different ways now.

The spiritual part is also accepting that i can't change that ugliness, that its been there and aint going nowhere so why fool myself. I just get frustrated when I get stupid enough to think there is an inkling of reasoning when there never has been any in past.

The spiritual part also keeps me loving the sometimes monster that is my mother. Lets me stand my self for putting up with it for a lifetime, otherwise I would be crazy as a "bedbug".

It also gives me hope that my life will get better and gives me strength to keep trying to do this job well and when its all done that I can rest in peace.
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Donna, my mother has been pleasant lately after years of being mean and self-centered. It is a bit disarming, since I still feel angry at her. But what do I say? I am angry with her for being so nice? I am wanting to ask her who she is and what did she do with my mother.

Strangely enough, she has also had better reasoning and memory. This has been going on for a few weeks, so I don't know what to think. This time last year I thought her time left on earth was getting short. Now I wonder if she'll live a lot longer.
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