Coping with Serious Illness
1. Keep a journal of your good days.
Barb: When you are first diagnosed with a serious illness, you might feel angry, frightened, or even betrayed by your body. The process of finding the right doctors and treatments can be stressful and overwhelming. I know I had some very difficult days...especially at the beginning. But as the treatment plan came together, and I began to receive the love and support of those around me, I started having lots of good days as well. When you have a good day (and you will have many) :) make sure to capture it in your journal. Use all of your senses to preserve the memory of this day. What made you smile today? What song did you hear on the radio that spoke to you in a meaningful way? Write a prayer of gratitude for these gifts, and hold it close to your heart...in case you need it on a rainy day.
2. Take a break from your illness.
Choose specific times (like during dinner) when your illness will not be discussed. After 35 years together, my husband and I still have date nights. Sometimes, ok, always...it means going out for dinner. We realized we had gotten into the habit of talking “at” each other, for instance, using statements beginning with: “I need to do…I must remember to…etc.” So, we developed an ever-growing list of thought-provoking questions that we could mull over during our dates. Especially during the early days of my illness, we would set aside my health issues for a few hours, go out on an romantic date, and focus on some of these questions instead:
- What is your earliest memory?
- What was the most fulfilling project that you have worked on?
- Who is the most spiritual person you know? Why?
- How would the world be different if you had not been born?
- Who was your favorite teacher/professor and why?
3. Surround yourself with positive people.
A positive attitude can be as beneficial as medicine or rest. It’s easy to remain aloof when you don’t feel well. Stay in touch with your friends, and make a special point to be near those with the best sense of humor.
4. Listen to spiritually uplifting music.
Praise music can usher us into the presence of the One who understands our pain and fear. Over two thousand years ago King David discovered that praising God through song can bring us to a place of restoration and peace.
5. Take one day at a time.
Never loose the hope of a better tomorrow.
6. Find opportunities to volunteer.
Volunteering is a way to rise above your situation. Something as easy as a phone call to a homebound friend can be empowering and do you both good.
7. Join a small faith group.
A small group of ladies has met in my home for Bible Study for many years. What a joy to know that these special friends were praying for me during my most difficult days. What a privilege to be able to pray for them during my down time after surgery – taking my thoughts away from my situation. Through a fellowship of believers our souls are nurtured and healed.