Coping with Crisis

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Coping with Crisis

What is a crisis anyway? Dictionary definitions say such things as a turning point or a loss of any kind. Well, using those definitions many things can certainly be called crises. For my family the big crisis, the turning point, the loss, was the realization that one of our daughters had a serious mental illness. It's been several years now since we heard that diagnosis, and today she is in a much better place.

However, it has not been an easy road for anyone in the family. We have all had to change, and we realized that as we changed for the better, she also became better. We have learned much. First and foremost, we have learned to see our daughter as a valuable human being, someone with strengths and weaknesses just like all of us. It was hard at first to accept that while she may never be able to work, and several things would be harder for her to do than for many others, she is still perfect in the eyes of God.

Secondly, we all had to learn how to take care of ourselves in the midst of being a support for her. This is not easy. When someone in the family is hurting in any way, our natural inclination is to give too much of ourselves to try to help them. While it is admirable to try to serve, if the caregiver falls apart that does not help anyone, lest of all the person requiring the care.

Today I do workshops and retreats for people who are hurting for many reasons. They may have a family member with an emotional illness, their spouse may be suffering from dementia, or perhaps one of their children may be going through a very difficult time and need help. Whatever the situation what I find in so many cases is that the caregiver is not taking enough care of him/herself. When asked why they are not, the response is nearly always that the other person's need is so great, they just can't let them down. They forget that they are running the risk of becoming unable to care for their needy person if they don't stay well themselves.

And, lastly, looking for the blessings in the situation is key. I know that also is not easy. When we were first in the early stages of coming to grips with our situation I could not see one blessing. All I could see was loss. All I could feel was fear. However, gradually, I did learn to stop each day and force my mind to try to find any small thing that I could feel good about. And, eventually, as the days went on, this became much easier to do. Little things like time to read a magazine, a phone call from a friend, perhaps my daughter accomplishing something that had not been possible before, all of these things and more became things I could be grateful for.

Crisis. Who wants to experience one? Not anybody, I am sure, if given the choice. But we all have heard cases of people who say as they come to terms with their personal crisis that today they are better for it. I say the same. I am a better, more peaceful person today. Sure I still wish my daughter's life didn't have so many struggles at times, but then all of us have struggles. I feel blessed to be her mother.

Shirley A. Mahood has been speaking on self-help topics for over fifteen years, both in the United States and in England. She is also the author of the book, MAKING OUR LIVES WORK, Strategies to Lessen Stress and Build Self-Esteem. Her website is

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