Posts filed under ‘chronic pain’

Four Ways to Help a Woman Who is Grieving

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“The biggest help is probably validation without judgment,” (Connie).

Ministering to a grieving woman is a hard task. The emotions are intense. The situation which prompted the emotions is often traumatic. There is no quick “fix.” There are no easy answers. But you can be a resource.

Here are 4 ways to come alongside a grieving woman.

My first action is to show I care. I can do this by listening. Listening well is important for two reasons.

  1. Women (all people really) give up when they feel consistently unheard.
  2. Emotional pain increases when others don’t listen, understand, and act with compassion.

Read What it Means to LISTEN Intentionally.

Listening well doesn’t mean using Scripture to lecture or prove a point. In fact, listen to her story before giving Scripture or adding any other input.

“The biggest help is probably validation without judgment.”  Connie

The worst thing I can do is to not respond. It’s okay for me to say, “I don’t know what to say or what to do.”

I can also show I care by my actions. 

  • I might coordinate a helpful action (meals, cleaning, babysitting, gardening).
  • I might do something myself (send her a note, do an activity together, pray with her).

I must not do anything that would make the woman feel inferior, inadequate, or unneeded. I need to be mindful that what is helpful or not helpful varies from woman to woman. So, I need to ask her.

Second, I’ll encourage and support the women in her grieving process. My aim is to encourage her “to choose completion and recovery rather than isolation and avoidance” (John James).

  • I do this by assuring the woman that she is not going crazy. Grief is unpredictable and it hurts a lot. Emphasizing the normalcy of grief and the wide-range of ways grief can affect her is helpful even if she already knows this. In her present state of pain, this information can bring some relief and assurance that she isn’t crazy.
  • I won’t try to talk her out of her feelings or rush her unique process.
  • I remind her that she is not alone. There are people who want to help her (like me) though this process.
  • And most importantly, I remind her that God is here too. And because of that I am able to offer hope that a better day is coming.

“Above all remember God understands their pain & can help in ways you can’t.” BG

Grieving is a disorderly process, unpredictable in appearance and manifestations. It is hard work. The steps to healing differ in expression, intensity, and time. Because our society hasn’t (as a whole) taught us about the grief process, its wide array of feelings, its impact on our behaviors and body, and the fact that grieving is normal, many women struggle needlessly and far longer than necessary.

Often people are afraid of or uncomfortable with the intense feelings of others. So they change the subject, minimize the feelings and intellectualize the situation. This is done by saying something that appeals to the intellect. To grieve well, a woman in pain needs to acknowledge those losses.

Some of these losses could include:

  • The changed nature of relationships – roles (at home, work, social settings) are now different for the woman in pain. Sometimes friendships are lost.

“I think I alienated a lot of people at work … because I was out sick so much …. and others [had to] cover for me” (Lori).

  • Loss of present income and/or loss of future earning potential
  • Loss of youth, healthy body functions and physical abilities, including clear thinking and intellect
  • Spontaneity – Living with chronic pain is hard work and typically everything needs to be planned out in order to manage the symptoms.
  • Independence
  • Retirement dreams
  • Pleasure – Available time and effort are placed on coping so that fun is often neglected.
  • Satisfying Sexual life – Low energy level and interest contribute to this loss. Also the fear of pain can contribute to lack of sexual intimacy.
  • Positive future plans – often these are viewed with fear
  • Self esteem
  • Identity

“Without question [there have been losses associated with my chronic pain]. I am not the woman I once was, I lack the stamina & strength I once had….check that…it is a DIFFERENT strength & stamina.” Connie

Third, I’ll start wherever the woman is, I don’t attempt to fix her or her relationship with God.

  • When she needs to talk, I listen without judgment or interruption.
  • When she wants information, I have resources to suggest (books, websites, support groups, counselor).
  • When she wants me to pray and share Scripture, I am ready with personal Words applicable to her situation. Some I know from my own journey and some I learn from God as I am praying for this dear one.
  • When the time is right, I share the hope and insights I’ve gained (from God) from my own grief journey.

“Remember pain eats hope so encourage hope but don’t preach (good luck).” BG

Of course, I can and do pray when I am not with the woman. I believe that the best support I can give is through prayer.

And lastly, I know there are times when I need to and should refer a woman to a professional counselor. Some things are behind my capability. And to be fair to both if us, someone more skilled than I needs to take over.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not caring, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

Your Turn . . .

  • What is your best way to help a grieving woman? 
  • What was the best help you received when going through a time of grief?

Related Internet Post . . . 10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression

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9 Ways Chronically Ill/Injured People Benefit from a To-Do List

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Healthy to-do- lists help organize, schedule, and corral our lives and thoughts.

Daily to-do lists are not created equal. Some lists are filled with so many tasks that it is impossible to get them all done in one week much less one day. 

Some lists are not written in any kind of order – listing the “must-do” right alongside the “would be nice to do.”

Some lists are not written for you. They state the goals and priorities of others or what you think others want you to do.

Finally some lists are too vague. Penning the word “exercise” doesn’t give you an indication of how to tell when you are done exercising.

Healthy to-do lists are what you need. They are do-able, precise, personal, and state what really needs doing today. And they must be S.M.A.R.T. A  healthy daily to-do list is not  a wish list, dump list, or bucket list.

Here are two links about writing effective to-do lists.

  1. 10 Tips to Create To-Do Lists Like a Pro!
  2. How to Make Your To-Do List Doable

Healthy to-do lists  . . .

  • help organize,
  • schedule, and
  • corral

A LIFE bursting with things to do.

It also helps corral, schedule, and organize A MIND bursting with thoughts.

But when I am ill or in pain, especially for a long time, I don’t have much on the to-do list nor is my mind bursting with thoughts. My main physical and mental goals are getting well, getting through that day. Can you relate?

But by using a healthy to-do list, you and I can do more than get through the day.  A well-written, healthy to-do list  is short. It takes into consideration the available energy for that day. It is okay and best to have only a few items on the list.

A healthy to-do list is beneficial in the following ways.

  1. Gives you something to look forward to
  2. Structures your day
  3. Determines YOUR priority for the day versus what others demand/expect of you
  4. Takes your mind off present ills
  5. Helps you create boundaries in your life
  6. Creates a sense of accomplishment
  7. Is a way to chart progress
  8. Automates your life so you don’t have to remember what to-do because it is written down
  9. Challenges you to do more or to do something out of your comfort zone

Want some ideas on what to put on your list? Look at the above benefits.  What would you like to do that would give you that benefit? Then choose one or two for today’s to-do list.

Your Turn . . . How have you found to-do lists beneficial (besides the obvious of getting things done)?

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When to Refer a Woman to a Professional Counselor

The ACA recommends professional counseling if the woman is unhappy 5 days out of seven

The ACA recommends professional counseling if someone is consistently unhappy 5 days out of 7.

Often a woman in pain, grief, or transition can highly benefit from professional help. There are two factors to consider.

The first factor involves the woman. It’s especially important to get a professional counselor involved when it looks like the woman has major depression, complicated grief, major anxiety, or post traumatic stress.

These are some symptoms to look out for:

  • A pattern of alcohol/drug abuse and/or dependence
  • Characteristics of mourning that do not appear to change at all over a period of months
  • Disciplines child(ren) or pet over harshly
  • Eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeater
  • Engages in self-mutation or destructive/dangerous behaviours
  • Expressions of suicidal intent
  • Feels overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Inability to be by themselves at any time
  • Lack of interest in caring for self or maintaining a good work/school ethic
  • Psychotic states (I.e. hearing/seeing things that aren’t there)
  • Severe depression
  • Sleep problems: sleeps too much or not enough
  • Thoughts of or actual actions of physical harm to self or others
  • Phobias that interfere with the quality of life
  • Uncontrollable crying/rage
  • Unreasonable paranoia
  • Victim mentality
The second factor involves the lay counselor or pastor. As a lay counselor in a church setting or a pastor, you may not have the expertise, time, personality, giftings, or resources to devote to certain types of counselling.
Here are 8 reasons why I’d refer a woman to a professional.

8. When I am "working harder" than the woman, it's time to refer her to someone else

  1. I don’t have the expertise to handle the situation.
  2. I don’t have the time to offer sessions that go on for months and months.
  3. I don’t have the emotional strength to deal with some issues.
  4. The woman does not do her homework.
  5. The woman doesn’t want spiritual help.
  6. The woman is not getting any better.
  7. We don’t connect.
You haven’t failed if a woman needs to go to a professional counselor. Nor has the woman. In fact it takes great strength to go to a counselor. And it takes humility to refer a woman for counseling.
Your Turn . . . What would you add to either list?
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even with a broken shoulder i have reasons to be grateful

on april 16th i went hiking. instead of just enjoying the view, my feet slid down an incline. i ended up with a broken shoulder. these past few weeks i have had spells of fretfulness. a good cure for this is sharing my gratitude list.

1. haircut. my formerly shoulder length hair is now chin length.  i can use a wash cloth to clean my hair on my own.

2. garden. a few weeks ago i spontaneously decided to buy pots and fill them with begonias, impatients, etc.  for my shady patio. now that i am home bound, this view is a great encouragement.

3. meals. many people have circled me with practical actions of care, like meals. until i can shop, chop, and open things on my own, i am very grateful for and depend upon these acts of kindness.

4. hot tub.  today i remembered that my apartment complex has a hot tub. since my muscles were very sore from a small walk today, i went and soaked my calves in the lukewarm water. while not hot, the water soothed my muscles.

  1. 5. healing.  since i am taking fewer pain meds, my thinking is clearer. my body is stronger. the bruise and swelling on my arm looks better too. my nights are not so hot, but i’ve had three great days in a row. NOTE: even though the bruising/swelling is on my arm, it is my shoulder that is broken.
of course, i am grateful to many people. they’ve been helping me with rides to the doctor, my work assignments, house chores, errands, and caring for my dog. the get well cards and messages (via facebook, texts, and phone calls) have cheered me up too. you know who you all are. i am truly blessed and grateful for what you’ve been doing for me.
if you want to share your own gratitude list on this friday’s fave five, go here to do so. 

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today’s feelings lead to productive action

feeling clear-headed so i did my reading in proverbs and finished the book.

feeling stable on my feet so i took a small walk. boy are my calf and lower back muscles sore.

feeling grateful so i praised god in song and wrote thank you notes.

feeling like i want to share my life so i posted.

i know we are not supposed to be led by our feelings, but in today’s case, i think it has served me well.

it has been a full day of activity and several naps. thanks so much for everyone’s care and prayers.

it has been 19 days since i broke my shoulder. 5ish more weeks and i can drive because my shoulder will be all healed.

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6 Things Chronic Pain Taught Me

Is chronic pain/chronic illness a constant event in your life? Does this constancy wear you down? Do you blame it for your bad moods and general irritability? Has it swiped your joy?

I agree that chronic pain and/or illness does take a toll on your body, emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. But I am grateful that it can also be a good teacher. Below are 6 things I’ve learned and am striving to better implement into my life.

  1. Exhaustion. Chronic pain/ illness is  physically exhausting. Do you feel you should be able to do more and handle the demands of life better? I did. But when a doctor told me this fact I felt relief. I felt  like I had “permission” to get more rest and do things differently in my day in response to this exhaustion (like do less).
  2. Emotional. Chronic pain/ illness can wreck havoc with your emotions and you can become emotionally exhausted as well. In order to stay emotionally balanced, it is important to recognize and talk about your emotions with safe people. When experiencing chronic pain/ illness, it is normal for your emotions to see-saw from negative to positive to negative. Once I realized this was within the realm of normal, I stopped fearing that I was going crazy or was a bad Christian.
  3. Energy Boundaries. Everyone has a set amount of energy to spend each day. When you are ill, fatigued, stressed, or in constant pain, this amount of energy is lessened. Therefore, learn to use your energy wisely. Do the most important things while you are fresh (early in the day or after a nap or rest). And make doubly sure your to-do list is reasonable and doable for the amount of energy you have that day. Push yourself beyond your energy level and you’ll pay for it for several days (sometimes weeks) by being bed-ridden, having more pain and exhaustion, etc..
  4. Experienced People.[1] Do you have a long association with chronic pain and/or illness? If like me you didn’t, then maybe you too were confused by the behavioural, cognitive, spiritual, and somatic changes you went through. I travelled through this confusion by talking with others who were more familiar with this new “landscape.” This included folks with chronic pain/illness and professionals. Not only did they give me information, they also gave understanding, advice, and encouragement to not let chronic pain/illness define who I am or control my thinking and actions. And they shared their experiences and feelings which showed me I wasn’t alone in this journey.
  5. Extra Care. Frankly I get tired of and bored with focusing on my needs (good nutrition, rest, exercise, thought control, reasonable to-do list, stress management, regular time with God, etc.). However, experiencing chronic pain has shown me how important it is that I take extra good care of myself.  I want to live longer (for my kiddos and hopefully grandbabies some day) and have a better quality of life. Taking good care of me won’t guarantee a longer, better life, but not taking care will guarantee ill-health. Pain is a good motivator.
  6. Engage. How do you respond when you are in the depths of chronic pain and/or illness? I tend to isolate from activity, people, myself, and God. I did this even though I know isolation always makes me feel worse. On those super bad days I made sure I engaged with at least one of the four areas mentioned.  My goal was to always touch base with all four. My constant was always my  relationship with God.

Your Turn . . .

  1. What has chronic pain/illness taught you?
  2. Can you identify with any of the things I wrote? What would you add to it?

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[1] Books also played the role of experienced people.

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19 Ways I Treated My Tendinitis

Constant pain makes me feel crazy-grouchy. These past 5 weeks have been a challenge to my health both physical and emotional on account of tendinitis in my left shoulder. My shoulder had been painful on and off for about 6 weeks before the pain became excruciating and constant.  When the pain became unremitting I knew I had a serious problem. And so started my journey into wellness. Again. (I had a back injury several years ago.)

I tried many things (all safe) with a  questioning mind. Below are 19 things I did or am still doing to deal with the tendinitis. Some things worked right away, but most took time. I don’t know if my results are typical are not. I do know that I had to have patience and diligence in order to get to the point where I am today.  There is a noticeable ache (half the day) in my shoulder with jabs of pain when I move the arm in a way not appreciated.

  1. Chiropractic Care. This is where I started. I went to the doctor who treated my back injury several years ago, Dr. Chris Bambus.  In addition to adjustments he also does Myofascial Release Therapy. He works on the knotted muscles by applying pressure to them. This article here gives a good explanation of trigger points. Here is a cool video showing what this is about.
  2. Interferencial Current Therapy. I also get this treatment at my chiropractor’s office. It is a creepy crawly sensation delivered to the shoulder muscles via electrodes. This therapy is meant to help with pain management. I have not noticed an immediate reduction in pain after the therapy. But I am willing to try all safe avenues to help with pain relief.
  3. MSM Powder. According to the research MSM helps with inflammation and pain relief.  I take vitamin C (also in powder form) with this. I have not noticed that it reduces the pain. I keep on taking it because I know that supplements often take at least a month of use before any difference is noted. I also read that MSM smooths out wrinkles. Now that would be a good side benefit. I buy the MSM from my chiropractor’s office.
  4. Epsom Salt Bath Soaks. This provides relief every time. I use 1 cup of salts in a hot bath and I soak for 20  minutes. I usually take a nap afterwards. I am investigating other types of additions to the water to see if or how they can help.
  5. Vitamin Supplementation. Since the Epsom salts soak helps every time, Dr. Bambus wondered if I have a magnesium deficiency. Since I don’t take vitamins, he suggested I take magnesium with calcium tablet. Please don’t leave a comment telling me how I should be taking vitamins a-z. I know I should take more. This is a process and at least I am taking these.
  6. Ice and Heat. I do this at least 3 times a day in the manner prescribed by my chiropractor. The icing feels particularly good on the deltoid muscle and on my wrist. This also helps relieve pain every time I use it.
  7. More Rest.I am not a great sleeper and have had sleep issues for years. But even if I am not sleeping, I can rest. I am making myself get more rest by going to bed earlier and taking naps when possible. I always told my children that they grew and healed while sleeping. While I may not be growing while sleeping, I am hopefully healing.
  8. Stretching Exercises. I am doing the ones suggested by my chiropractor. If it is painful, I stop. The exercises came from a book by Bob and Jean Anderson titiled, Stretching.
  9. Mechanical Aids. A hand-held massager (thanks Marsha for lending me yours) and a massaging chair (named Olga which is at my sister’s home) have provided some great massages. Both feel great. When I visited my dd she paid for me to have a massage. Oh man, did that ever help too!
  10. Hang my arm. I’ve noticed that I tend to keep my arm crooked at a 90 degree angle. So whenever I can, I hang it down, like when I am driving or walking. I like the feel of this gentle stretch.
  11. Work Environment Assessment. While most of my work-life I’ve been able to be ergonomically incorrect, my body (at least my left shoulder) won’t tolerate this anymore. So I looked at my office to see what I could do to be more kind to my body. I.e I lowered my keyboard, take 30 second stretch breaks once an hour, and am sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair.
  12. Taping. I am an athlete! At least my left shoulder is. It is taped (by the chiropractor) like an injured athlete’s shoulder would be taped. This is supposed to immobilize the muscle so that it can rest and not strain itself. Mark (my b-i-l) was a gymnast in college and says this helped them whenever they had injured muscles and tendons which was like all the time. I don’t notice that it makes a difference, but it is free, not invasive, and doesn’t hurt.
  13. Pay Attention. I hold my stress in my shoulders. Evidently I hunch up my shoulders when feeling stressed. So throughput the day I do a stress spot check to see how I am doing. If my shoulders are high, I consciously stretch and then lower them towards the ground.
  14. Arm Sling. I never realized how much I use my left arm/hand. If I was to take a lie detector test before this injury, I would have sworn in good conscience that I hardly ever use my left limb. Wearing the sling made me more conscious of my movements and it helps me to not use the left arm. Thanks Marsha for letting me borrow this.
  15. Expectations. I am learning to lower them. I cannot and should not carry things that are heavy. I either need to get help or take more trips to transport the groceries, items for Goodwill, or stuff to and from work.
  16. Positive Attitude. I remind myself that this is a temporary situation. I tell myself I can handle anything for 3 months. (I just picked a number.) If the pain is still severe after 3 months, then I will make a new plan. I tell myself the promises of Scriptures where God is my source of comfort and help and that He won’t give me more than I can bear. I ask God to help me with my attitude as I tend to get grumpy when I’m in pain that lasts for days (never mind weeks and months).
  17. Advil. Because of all these other ideas I have been able to cut down on how much and how often I use this OTC medication. I don’t like swallowing pills (which is why I don’t take vitamins) so this really is a last line of relief for me.
  18. Other ideas. Google turned up other ideas here here and here.
  19. Prayer. I have asked for prayer 6 times from my church (staff prayer, gone forward at church service and attended the Wednesday night prayer for healing time). Even though I haven’t received instantaneous physical relief any of these times, I believe and know that God can and does heal in this manner. I.e. I’ve been healed from my glaucoma, but that’s another story.  However I did receive emotional encouragement from the prayer which was something I also needed. If and when I feel prompted, I will ask for prayer again.

I feel much better today than I did 5 weeks ago. Pain is no longer my constant companion. Pain no longer dictates my to-do list. However, I see that I do need to maintain some of the above practices. I do need to continue with a life-style audit and continue to incorporate more healthy living practices into my life. The next practice I want to address is some way to deal with stress.  I naturally hold onto stress and want/need to find ways to let it go.

Your Turn . . .

  • Do you deal with a pain issue?
  • Does it influence your emotions?
  • What have you found that works?
  • What life-style changes are you making?
  • How may I pray for you?
  • What is your best stress releasing idea?

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