Can We Edit Our Caregiving Stories? How?


Can We Edit Our Caregiving Stories? How?

This quote from Susan Statham—"Your life is a story; write well, edit often”—made me wonder: How does the editing process work?

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

Back when my husband’s cancer took a sharp left turn, chemo was prescribed – not as a cure, but as palliative care.

It was Thanksgiving and we were with extended family in northern California. Gary asked our niece Janelle if she’d shave his head. Because he wasn’t going to let chemo dictate when he would lose his hair.

But. You put an electric shaver in the hands of a niece who is a crazy passionate Oregon Ducks fan, well then …

First you get your leopard-patterned cape.

Then you get your standard mohawk.

From there, it was all downhill as Janelle shaved an “O” on the back of Gary’s head in anticipation of the Oregon/Oregon State football game later that day.

And of course photos were taken and posted to Facebook.

“What’s going on out there?!” our daughter texted from the east coast.

Looking back, I think this was Gary editing the “chemo chapter” by throwing in a bit of fun for those of us whose hearts were beginning to crack open more deeply.

There’s a long season in Gary’s and my story that ended up being a bleak trek through job loss, financial reversals, caregiving for my live-in mom with Alzheimer’s and my husband with terminal cancer. And widowhood.

But I edited all those chapters.

Instead of those years signifying irretrievable loss, they signify a time of stretching and growth, of falling more deeply into love with each other, more deeply into our faith.

Those years represent learning to find meaning and purpose during the hard and holy moments.

They represent hiking to the tops of more mountains, and taking more road trips, and having more fun.

Which means, the ten cancer years were the best years of our marriage. Imagine.

So how do we go about editing our stories?

1. Take inventory.

We begin by taking inventory of all that has transpired.

2. Choose how to reflect on what's happening.

We edit by making an intentional choice to see our adversity through God’s lenses as we look for the good alongside the heart-breaking.

Henri Nouwen penned these thought-provoking words:
Our pains and joys, our feelings of grief and satisfaction, are not simply dependent on the events of our lives, but also, and even more so, on the ways we remember these events.

3. Journal our thoughts.

We edit by writing out our reasoned thoughts. Dr. Timothy Wilson—a psychology professor and lead author of a Duke study on the benefits of capturing our thoughts in writing—said this:
Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.

Reconstrue. Rethink. Reinterpret.

I’m pretty sure I saved my husband thousands of dollars in psychotherapy costs through the years simply by keeping a journal.

I didn’t have a choice when cancer invaded my husband’s body, our lives, our finances.

But I have a choice in how I react and live forward with this irreversible thing.

I choose to notice everyday graces, to acknowledge the people in my life as gifts, to love, to speak courage and hope, to count blessings and lean in close to God, to embrace all God allows – the broken along with the beautiful.

What if?

What if the caregiving chapters in our stories don’t turn out exactly as we planned?

They won’t.

But what if we could edit and reframe those chapters to see them from God’s perspective?

We could.

Now that I’m in a blissful, contented, brimming widowhood routine, I wouldn’t wonder if it’s time for some unsettling. Because getting pushed out of our comfortable places provides the opportunity to start the next chapter of our lives.

I’m ready. Let’s do this.

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