Earth Below, Heaven Above by Norby, via Flickr:

I had that very thought many times during my years as a caregiver. I’m sure I’m not the only one with those thoughts.

During my devotional time the other morning I was reading in the Book of Psalms. I love the Psalms because there’s joy, sadness, anguish, loneliness and passion. There’s more, but for now l want to focus on joy and what I read about it.

Happiness is an emotional state typically dependent upon external circumstances. The Biblical concept of joy involves a deeper reality. Joy includes a condition of genuine well-being, marked by confidence, hope and trust that extends far beyond our own finite perceptions.

Happiness is often temporary; joy is more of a process, often developed most profoundly during periods of chaos and suffering.

What I found to be true is in that last sentence. Any joy I had during my journey as a caregiver came during those exact times; chaos and suffering.

There were many times I didn’t feel joy or happiness due to the circumstances at the time. So many days would be challenging and just plain hard to deal with. Then out of the clear blue, I would get a smile or even a laugh out of my mother. That brought me joy.

In the beginning stages of my mother’s Alzheimer’s and dementia, there was a lot of anger and frustration on her part and eventually on my part. There was never any joy, only sadness and disbelief. Over the years learning, researching, talking to other caregivers and medical staff, I understood that you need to focus on the good days because there is always going to be challenging days. What good does it do to focus on the sadness? That’s not to say you should suppress your sad feelings, just the opposite. I dealt with my sadness mostly by journaling. I had wonderful people to aire my feelings if I needed or wanted to. I chose to focus on the good moments with my mother, the ones that brought a smile to my face and reminded me that inside of her was still the mother I’d always known.

Joyful moments for me would be walking into a room where she was sitting and she looked up and saw me; her eyes would light up. Then there were the times the music was playing and she was up dancing by herself, so uninhibited; just feeling the music and going with it. That’s pure joy.

Did I ever get sad after a joyful moment? You bet I did. Why? Because those “joyful” moments didn’t always last for long. That’s the hardest part in caregiving; seeing the one you love enjoying a moment and then before you know it, it’s gone. That’s not to say she never had a good full day, she did. As the years went by those days were fewer and farther between.

I would say, for me, happiness was more prevalent than joyfulness considering the above definition of the two. I was happy she was living in a good assisted living facility. Happy she had good care where the staff genuinely showed their love for the elderly. Happy she was still included in social activities. However, all of these are external circumstances.

Joy was simply the purest gift for me, like the biblical reference above, it involved a deeper reality.

Wherever you are as a caregiver right now, search out the good in your situation, no matter how small it might be, then give thanks for that good. You just might be surprised to find joy waiting inside that good!

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