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"The Little Book of Caregiver Prayers"
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Turning to Prayer
It seems strange to say it's possible for
something good to come out of something as terrible as a loved one's ever-worsening condition. But it's true. It can.
Caught up in everyday living, it's easy to
forget—and to ignore—what's important. What really matters. Taking
care of a loved one changes that. Being a caregiver brings you
face to face with mortality.
It's not surprising then that a care-receiver
and caregiver can be drawn toward prayer. If this hasn't been a
central part of your loved one's life or your life for a time (if ever),
praying can feel awkward. Just the thought of praying can make you
feel uncomfortable. How do you start? What do you say?
Even if you're accustomed to praying, this
might be different. Maybe prayer has always been something very
personal and private for you and for your loved one, but now you two
would like to pray together.
Where to begin?
Prayer has been defined as lifting the mind
and the heart to God. That's easier to do when your mind is filled
with concern for a loved one. When your heart is breaking as you watch
him or her slip away.
Praying isn't complicated. There are no
formulas that have to be followed. "Thee" and
"thou" aren't necessary. Praying is telling God, "This
is what's on my mind." "This is why my heart is aching." "This
is what I’m so grateful for."
It's turning to the one who created your
parent (your spouse, your child, your family member, your friend),
turning to the one who loves him or her even more than you do—and
that doesn't seem possible!—and asking for help, for comfort, for
Your prayers may change as your loved one's
condition goes through stages. The focus of your prayers may shift.
That's all right. For a time it may be "heal him (her)." And that
might happen. At another time it may become, "Yes, I know he's (she's)
going to die, but just not now. Please. Later." And you may reach
a point in your prayers when you ask God, "Let him (her) go peacefully.
When it's his (her) time, let him (her) go and welcome him (her) into heaven."
But there may also be periods when what is
happening is so overwhelming—so frightening, so awful—that your
own words just won't come. Many caregivers in that situation have
discovered silently repeating the prayers they learned as children—the
Our Father, the Hail Mary—can bring comfort. Some who haven't said
the Rosary for years are surprised to find that can be especially
If your loved one wants to pray out loud with
you, saying an Our Father, Hail Mary or a Rosary can be a good place
to begin. (Also, keep in mind, there are prayers on audio tape, CDs,
and computer mp3 downloads.) It's easier than worrying about coming up with
the "right" words or avoiding the "wrong" ones.
Your loved one may surprise you with the number
of prayers and hymns he or she remembers. It's not uncommon that
someone with a significant short-term memory loss can easily, and
happily, recall what he or she memorized as a child.
It also helps to keep in mind a personal
shared prayer doesn't have to be long or complicated. "Heavenly
Father, bless my dear wife (mom, daughter, friend) and me. Thank you for letting us be a part of each
other's lives. Give us strength for whatever lies ahead."
Even if your family has never been the
touching-hugging type, holding hands with your loved one as you pray may
feel right, may be very comforting, for both of you.
Then, too, there may be times when it helps
to turn to "silent" prayer. For you, or for your loved one, to
pray privately. Again, it may be holding her hand or it may be sitting beside
his bed as he sleeps and, in silence, telling God what you're
thinking and what you're feeling. Asking for, listening for, God's
voiceless words of comfort and encouragement.
Although Catholics traditionally haven't been
strong on privately reading the Bible, this is another kind of spoken
prayer you both might find helpful. Try something from one of the
Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. They're filled with Jesus' words
And it may be your loved one has a particular
rosary, medal, crucifix or prayer book he or she wants to have nearby
and go with him or her to the hospital or nursing home.
But what if you don't feel like praying and
your loved one asks you to? Do it, if only as a favor to him or her. It
probably means a lot to him or her. And, later, after your loved one is gone, having done it may mean a lot to you.
Are you being hypocritical if you turn to
prayer now? No. Just the opposite. You're being true to how you feel.
People change. What you're going through is changing you in many ways.
It shouldn't be surprising that includes spiritually.
my intentions to the Prayer List