A Ritual for Caregivers

Author: Rev. Sharon Leman, MLA
Newsletter Issue: June 2008

Enjoying longer lives as the result of medical advances has changed our experience of death. We face issues that were not present a few generations past. In my grandparents' time, people got ill and either recovered or quickly died. Now the march to death may be prolonged by medical intervention. People linger as their health slowly declines before an illness takes its final toll.

A basket full of various emotions can accompany caregiving. If unresolved emotional issues remain in a relationship, they only intensify under the strain of dealing with a long-term illness. Along with grief and sadness, many people experience guilt, hurt, anger or frustration.

One way to help replenish one's personal resources is through ritual. As defined in The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, a ritual is “a focusing tool, a way of acknowledging the Sacred and gathering energy for whatever workings need to be done. Rituals access the part of us that responds to things viscerally rather than intellectually.”

Through ritual, a person can stop, focus and make sacred that which is ordinarily taken for granted. A ritual can be used as a way to give voice to the unspoken, facilitate healing or remember a person or event. It can also be a way to refocus personal thought patterns so that they become self-serving, not self-defeating.

A ritual does not need to be elaborate or take a lot of time. In fact, to keep meaning from getting lost, the simpler the better.

My hope is that you will consider incorporating a ritual in your life to hold or heal whatever needs attention. You deserve to have a few moments of self-love and self-care as a regular part of your day.

The following describes a ritual that can be used to bolster the spirit of a person who is a caretaker. It is flexible—please feel free to add, subtract or change any of the components.

The point of this ritual is for the caregiver to take time to remember that the work being done is important, and that good works are never wasted.

____________________________________

Ritual for a Caregiver

Start by preparing an altar or sacred space, defined by a cloth (shawl, scarf, etc). This could be set up on a table, dresser or counter top or any place that is special to you.

Essentials for the Altar

Water in a Container – for a blessing, affirmation or remembrance that all life emerged from water.

Pebbles – drop one in the water each day, to symbolize how our actions are like the ripples sent out. They may appear small, but their effects are far-reaching.

Candle – to symbolize light brought into a dark situation, as a means of remembrance or to illuminate an intention. I suggest a battery-operated candle because stress can make a person forgetful, and this eliminates the worry of leaving a candle left burning unattended.

Mirror - write encouraging words on the mirror using a watercolor marker (such as: “Healing”, “I am enough”, “Peace”, “I am loved”, etc.)  The words can be erased and changed as needed.

Prayer or Affirmation – (a sample prayer follows)

Altar Options - a meaningful picture (of a loved one, nature, or anything reminiscent of nurturing)

Holy Object or statue representing the divine, a teacher, or other source of inspiration

Altar Cloth - used to define the space 

Flowers - and/or anything that is comforting or nurturing

The Actual Ritual

Note: This ritual is very simple, so it shouldn’t take much time. I recommend performing the ritual every day because it is easy to get distracted. This ritual can help to refocus and replenish the soul. It is also flexible. The prayer can be changed as the situation requires. The altar adornments can vary to keep the space fresh and keep the ritual from growing stale. Music can be played, dancing can be incorporated, or a favorite inspirational song can be sung. 

  • Walk to the altar and light the candle.
  • Take 3 deep breaths to center self and bring attention to the moment.
  • Drop a pebble in the water and watch the ripples extend out from the point of entry.
  • Look at mirror with love and appreciation for who you are.
  • Write on the mirror with a marker—for example, "I am enough".
  • Again, look at yourself and say your written words out loud.
  • Read the prayer (that follows) out loud, to your reflection in the mirror.
  • Bless yourself with the water when you come to the last line of your affirmation/prayer:

“May we be blessed with peace,      
(bless yourself)
wholeness,
(bless yourself)
and love.”    
(bless yourself)

______________________

A Caregiver's Prayer

Caring for (name) is hard.
It’s taken over my life.
The person I used to be doesn’t seem to exist.
Hurt, exhaustion, anger and discouragement
are all I’ve come to know.
I would gladly offer my pain as gifts of love,
however, I am unappreciated.
My efforts feel useless.

Yet, I must remember,
the work I do is not for (name) alone.
My suffering does not disappear into the abyss.
I make a difference.
My actions send out ripples of love.
This love touches the lives of others.
The work I perform is bigger than this situation.
It is the work that is needed
not only for (name) but to heal a wounded world.

In my willingness to be of service,
may I find hope.

In the face of indifference,
may I find courage.

In giving what I can,
may I find love.

For (name)
For myself
For the world
May grace find us.
May we be blessed with peace, wholeness and love.

Amen. 

_________

Work Cited

Starhawk, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997.

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