I am a mom who has experienced times of both hope and low hope, throughout my journey caring for my son who had severe brain damage and physical disabilities. I say had, as he passed away a few years ago, at the age of 12. His 18th birthday would have been this weekend. We will still have a party……I don’t know if I would be planning this party if I was without hope.
I never really thought about hope during my caregiving years, but in hindsight, I see that I allowed my hope to gradually ebb away. Each ‘crisis’ seemed to drain me a little more. It was not until after my son died that I found the time to see a counsellor who recognized my hope was at a very low level. The first thing she helped me with was bringing about an awareness of hope and its importance.
I went home from the counsellor thinking, “What do I hope for? Can’t she see that’s the reason I am there – I don’t really hope for anything”. Well, I made a list, actually a collage depicting it. I really didn’t feel hope for any of my choices, but cognitively, I knew that they were things important to me. My counsellor spoke with me about my choices. She was keeping “my hopes” in sight, so I didn’t just let them go. Gradually over the next months, I realized that I was taking small steps towards some of the hopes for which I had some control. She didn’t ask me to do anything; I just made my list and we talked about its items. I believe this started a domino effect in a positive direction, exactly the opposite of that which had claimed my hope. Hope led to more hope!
Another activity I found beneficial was discovering my “signs of hope” – sights, smells, sounds – that bring a sense of hope. Whenever I experience these signs, I remember to actively hope. Sparrows give me hope that I will be with my son again one day.
It was only a few days after he passed away, when a sparrow flew into the house. A bird had never flown into our home before or since.
Unsure of what to do, I grabbed a large empty juice jug and put it on its side on the floor next to him. I thought I would have to capture him, but he just hopped right in. He did not flutter as I walked him to the backyard. In fact, the jug had no lid, and I was able to look in on a very calm little bird. When we got to the deck, I put the jug onto its side again and the sparrow hopped back out and stood on the deck’s railing. I am sure it was at least five seconds in which he stood inches from my face looking at me, before he flew away.
Noel’s Suggestions for Hope
- Make a list of hopes, even if you don’t feel them, and remind yourself of them regularly. Encourage fellow caregivers to discover those buried hopes, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Find your own “signs of hope” that will remind you that there is hope every time you witness it.