Month: May 2010

Remembering those who Sacrificed their Lives for Us

Remembering those who Sacrificed their Lives for Us

Operation Iraqi Freedom

4,384 Casualties and counting

Operation Enduring Freedom

1,097 Casualties and counting

The Gulf War

1,963 Casualties

Vietnam War

58,261 Casualties

Revolutionary War

25,700 Casualties

Korean War

36,574 Casualties

World War I

116,516 Casualties

World War II

405,399 Casualties

The complete list of names

This does not include all of those who lost limbs and spent a lifetime suffering from PTSD. It also does not include the family members who lost loved ones both physically and emotionally.

Gratitude is Essential to Aging Abundantly

Gratitude is Essential to Aging Abundantly

I have been writing about compassion fatigue and will continue to do so next week. I think it is a very important topic for women to think about and discuss as we age. I want to take a break today and add this blog about gratitude, partly because this holiday weekend is an opportune time to be grateful. In addition, developing an attitude of gratitude can provide an important tool for overcoming compassion fatigue.


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”      -Melody Beattie

Gratitude is the cornerstone of happiness and inner peace, both of which are impossible without it.  Cultivating a habit of gratitude can go a long way to creating the mental and spiritual pathways that turns our attention away from feelings of sadness and meaninglessness and toward what is good in life.  Just as we wear out the road of self-pity as life takes aim at us, so too can we wear ruts in a road leading in a more positive direction by shifting our thoughts and focus to our blessings.

It is difficult to hold two thoughts in our minds at one time, so replacing a negative with a positive is a very effective tool for dispelling all sorts of tiresome mental habits that do little to bring us happiness. Taking a few minutes each day to list five things, large or small,  for which you are grateful, as Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests, will make you smile. I guarantee it. If that isn’t happiness, I don’t know what is.

The above quote was taken from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance online website. As those of you who have read her book know, she is a big fan of keeping a gratitude journal.  No one can be more convincing than this wise woman, so I will provide the link to the page where she provides instructions. 

Your Gratitude Journal

How to Prevent and Recover from Compassion Fatigue

How to Prevent and Recover from Compassion Fatigue

Yesterday I wrote about my own personal experience with compassion fatigue in the post “What is the Answer to Compassion Fatigue” and hopefully described it in a way that is recognizable to those of you who are feeling the stress of caring too much. It is a common experience among professional caregivers of all types, as well as those individuals who are caring for an aging parent or a sick spouse or child. Women are particularly vulnerable to compassion fatigue as they tend to be the ones who nurture and provide care in a situation. Not only do others expect and depend upon them for this ability, but we seem to be designed to expect it of ourselves as well.

Giving, supporting and caring for others are one of a woman’s most precious gifts, but a strength taken to its extreme can quickly become a weakness. Caring too much can break us down, use us up and make it impossible for us not only to keep on giving but to enjoy our own lives.

The degree to which we may be vulnerable to compassion fatigue will depend on both nature and nurture. If we recognize that we may be suffering from compassion fatigue, whether it is mild or severe, it is time to take action to uncover the internal, as well as, the external causes. Here are a few steps to take to get you started along the road to recovery and prevention. In the future I will cover more specific topics in detail.

Steps to Take to Begin the Healing Process

Journal: Begin writing in a journal at least once every day. Write about your feelings, concerns, problems and issues. It doesn’t matter how well you write because no one ever has to read your journal. It has been shown scientifically that the act of writing is extremely beneficial both emotionally and physiologically. It is relaxing, cathartic and helps your mind process the stresses of the day.

Talk to a Supportive Person: Whatever you do, don’t try to go it alone. When we become overwhelmed emotionally we tend to withdraw. Compassion fatigue often results in a feeling of numbness. We may think we have nothing to talk about because our feelings are buried under exhaustion and a sense of overwhelm and hopelessness. If you do not have a friend or spouse with whom you can talk about your concerns, seek out the support of a therapist or pastor, or someone with whom you feel comfortable and can talk freely. You are not necessarily in need of answers to your care giving problems, you just need to be cared for too!

Care for Yourself: This is often the hardest thing a caring, giving person can learn to do, but it is essential when external demands intensify. Take time to do the things you enjoy doing and do so often. Slow down, find a way to do a little less and time to do nothing. Take ten minutes every day to sit quietly and do absolutely nothing – preferably fifteen minutes.  This time, without distractions or demands, allows your psyche to process all the myriad of information that it already contains. It will help you connect to yourself, to your center, to your life force and you will find that you are rejuvenated.

These three steps will get you started along the path to compassion fatigue recovery and prevention. It is only the beginning, as changing ourselves is always a process that takes time, dedication and determination.

by Dorothy Sander

What is the Answer to Compassion Fatigue?

What is the Answer to Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue, a type of burnout, is a common problem among caregivers of all types ~ nurses, doctors, social workers, etc. It has become a more noticeable problem within the boomer generation as more and more individuals are taking on the care of an aging parent while being caught in the “sandwich generation”. They are still caring for their children when their parents begin to turn to them for assistance.

Compassion fatigue is the result of constant exposure to pain and suffering and the caregiver “feels” the pain of the person they are helping. Most caregivers are compassionate people by nature. This makes them excellent at their jobs but also prime candidates for compassion fatigue.

A person who is empathetic by nature, finds it difficult to turn off compassion when someone turns to them for help and support. I am one of those people and have suffered way too much because of it. I’m still recovering from a five-year period in which I was called upon to care for an aging parent, an ill husband, a friend going through a difficult divorce, a niece whose husband left her, a son whose heart was broken and dropped out of college, not to mention a new puppy, two cats and a garden! It’s not funny. Trust me, I know.

When everyone seems to want and need our understanding and support all at once, what are we to do? Who should I have turned away? At the time, it never occurred to me not to help, support and love these important people in my life.  I just gave… and gave… and gave until…you’ve got it…I developed compassion fatigue! It did not hit all at once. My ability to cope, to think, and to sleep began to diminish, day by day, week by week. I had the frequent feeling “I can’t do this anymore, I need a vacation, something has to stop.” I began to have minor health problems and high blood pressure. I kept attributing it to stress, but that didn’t seem to exactly fit. I kept waiting for the problems to be resolved, for the people I was helping to get better. Some did, but I was still in a predominantly care giving role.

My life was out of balance and ultimately, I just stopped…everything. I stopped taking calls, stopped trying to help, stopped trying to fix everyone, stopped working (fortunately I’m self-employed), stopped moving.  I shut down. I was numb, in a fog, depressed, perpetually tired and really not sure what the heck was going on. I stared into space for weeks. I knew I had a problem but wasn’t sure what it was. I wondered why I couldn’t cope and why I couldn’t make myself feel better.

This is compassion fatigue. My first self-diagnosis was burnout – and compassion fatigue is a kind of burnout so I wasn’t completely off the mark. Defining it as compassion fatigue is more likely to bring about a cure because then the real problem can be addressed. Burn out is often too much doing and going and working, etc. Compassion fatigue is burnout of a particular set of emotions ~ those used in caring for others ~ compassion, empathy, caring.

A total collapse can be avoided, but it takes self-awareness at a time when it is difficult to think about ourselves. For those of us who are empathetic and compassionate to a fault, it is necessary to learn how to find caring balance where we care enough to be helpful but not so much as to destroy ourselves. We are often those very people who don’t know how to be compassionate to ourselves or care adequately for ourselves and that is where we must begin.

This is the first in a series of blogs on how to avoid and recover from compassion fatigue. Stay tuned.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate… Marianne Williamson Quote

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate… Marianne Williamson Quote

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~ Marianne Williamson

There is a reason why Marianne Williamson’s quote is enormously popular. Her words speak to us, although not in an intellectual way. In fact, her words bypass our reason entirely and go straight to our hearts. She speaks of a truth we can only sense through our intuition. It is a truth that lies beyond reason.

We each have a reservoir of power, energy and untapped creativity bubbling within us. Our ability or inability to embrace our God-given talents defines our life. Williamson’s words shine a light on what we try to hide in our fear places.  She dares us to let go of our fears embrace all that we are.  We were born with these gifts, but they do not belong to us.  They belong to the world.

Marianne Williamson’s Quote:

Excerpt from: A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

More Quotes by Marianne Williamson

On the spiritual journey:

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.”
― Marianne Williamson

“Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.”
― Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation: Mastering the Metaphysics of Abundance

On women:

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

“Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. If we’re frantic, life will be frantic. If we’re peaceful, life will be peaceful. And so our goal in any situation becomes inner peace.” 
― Marianne Williamson
On Consciousness:

“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. ”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

“And no one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.” ~ Marianne Williamson


Quotes on Aging
Quotes by Women
Quotes by Coretta Scott King
Reflections on Peace Quotes
50 Quotes by Wayne Dyer



The Fertile Ground of Shattered Dreams

The Fertile Ground of Shattered Dreams

Our beautiful maple tree lies in pieces on our front lawn, as the blossom laden magnolia looks on. This magnificent tree had its home in the very center of our front yard, and I watched as it grew from a tiny sapling to a large, spreading beauty that garnered the attention of strangers with cameras each fall. I loved this tree and spent many hours studying its shape and texture from my office window as I contemplated the words I was putting on a page. It was a silent friend and constant companion, but the drought of the last several years took its toll and now it is gone.

It has been difficult for me to enjoy the nearby magnolia this year as I usually do. Its tremendous white blossoms bathe all who pass by in its luscious scent.  I have not cut a single blossom for our foyer to fill our house with its aroma. My heart is heavy from my loss and my focus and energy is still required in the cleanup effort. I must put things in order, remove the debris before it kills the grass and pile the wood for fuel for winter.

Life is full of such experiences, and while the loss of a tree is a rather minor loss, it is a loss none the less an example of what is required to survive even greater losses. Our dreams are much like my beloved maple tree. They do not always last as long as we would like them to or grow as big and luscious as anticipated. Sometimes our dreams end up in a heap on the ground. Like the maple and the magnolia, while one dream lies dead and in pieces on the ground ~ gone for good ~ another different, but just as magnificent dream waits in the background.  Before we can take hold of a new dream, we must mourn our loss, grieve what has passed, and put our house in order.

There is a season and a time for fulfilling each dream and a time for laying them to rest. We do not always want to let go, especially if we thought our dream would live forever and we did not consider the day it would be gone.  Going through the steps of letting go of a dream that has died will ready the ground for the roots of the new one to take hold.

If you have lost a dream and it is lying in pieces around you, you have a choice. You can sit amongst the wreckage, refusing to let go, as the wood rots and the grass beneath it dies, or you can get to work cleaning up the debris and stacking the wood neatly in a pile to keep you warm in winter. The grieving process is a necessary part of moving on and one that we cannot avoid. Undertaking the clean up process provides the time and opportunity to heal. Focused on a practical task often helps our sorrow find its way to the surface and our tears to flow. If we give our sadness expression and not try to bury it or trap it inside to fester, we can begin to heal.

Lost dreams and shattered hopes generate the wisdom we need to meet our next challenge. When one dream dies, the lessons we have learned remain intact and they will be there to help us bring the next dream to fruition.  In all of life’s transitions, it is important to give ourselves time to mourn and time to reorder our lives, before we begin again. Too often we try to skip over the sorrow and the unpleasant work, but that only leaves our hearts heavy and our brains foggy.

If you are struggling to put your life together after a dream has been shattered, and it does not seem to be working, consider giving yourself more time to mourn, more time to heal and putting your practical life in order.  Your next dream will be there when you are ready, just as the magnolia will be there for me to enjoy next spring, and if it is not, the dogwood will be.