It was January 30, 2001 – 7:41 pm. As quickly as my son was delivered by an emergency c-section, he was carried off by the nurses to the NICU. That began one of the longest nights of my life. After several hours, my wife began to wonder why they had not brought our newborn baby to the room. We would soon learn that our son’s blood sugars were dangerously low and he was very weak. In an instant, we were caregivers – no experience required.

Daniel spent seventeen days in the NICU before he was united with us at home and that is when the questions began. My wife and I never denied that something was not right. The problem was that we did not have any answers for all of our questions. It would be another four years before we would learn that he had a rare genetic condition, as well as being a carrier of a blood disorder, which compromised his development in utero, resulting in a birth trauma and Cerebral Palsy. This delay in diagnosis prolonged the intellectual acceptance of being a caregiver.

As a caregiver of a child with special needs, I have walked the dark roads that every caregiver walks. Those roads include, but are not limited to, lost dreams, personal sacrifice, and feelings of isolation and loneliness. The physical transition from newly expectant parent to caregiver happened instantly for me on January 30, 2001 at 7:41 pm. However, the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual transitions have taken years.

Although the physical reality of becoming a caregiver happens instantaneously, there is often a lag between the physical reality and intellectual acceptance. The most common intellectual response to the reality of becoming a caregiver is denial. My mind struggled to accept what my physical body was experiencing. This is because in my mind I had pictured what the experience of being a new father would be.

The expecting parents anticipate a healthy baby who achieves all of the growth milestones. The spouse of fifty years expects to have a carefree retirement. The family members of a soldier believes that his or her safe return is certain because, after all, that is their prayer. When experiences do not align with desires, there is an intellectual rejection of the experiences. Once the experiences begin to gain intellectual acceptance, the emotional response will often be focused on the caregiver’s struggles.

In caregiver coaching, the goal is to minister to the entire experience of the caregiver. This means the coach needs to be aware of the caregiver’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual condition and how these four pillars are interdependent.  There are progressive steps from the instantaneous recognition of becoming a caregiver to the final acceptance that this is the journey that God has for you. It is the lag time between the physical experience and the intellectual acceptance that causes the emotional imbalance.

You see, the emotional struggles most caregivers experience are not “How do I love my child?” or “How do I honor my father and mother in light of his or her new diagnosis?” or even “How do I care for my family member who was wounded in battle?” The struggle begins after the title of caregiver is stamped upon the forehead of a person in these situations. The physical transition from parent, spouse, or family member to caregiver is instantaneous. However, the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual transitions often take much longer to happen.

The physical transition happens at the moment of birth, diagnosis, or injury. However, intellectually, there is a lag because the mind is trying to rationalize what is being experienced with what a person expected to happen. Failing to be able to rationalize these two, the mind continues to try to define what is being experienced so the problem can be identified, the solution determined, and steps can be taken to solve the problem. However, the problem cannot be fixed and so the mind continues to resist the new reality.

In order for the mind to catch up with the physical reality of being a caregiver, the mind has to come to a place of acceptance. For a man, being able to accept a problem that cannot be solved is not a natural response. This inability to fix the situation begins to invade the emotional aspects of a man’s life and results in anger and fear. For a woman, she develops an unrealistic belief that there was something more she could have or should have done. The inability to correctly identify the cause and effect of the circumstances leads to guilt and depression.

Neither of these two responses are rational, but they are very normal. Both men and women experience deep emotional suffering when their child is born with a disability, or a spouse of many years is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or a terminal disease, or a veteran returns home with PTSD or combat injuries. However, one tends to withdrawal and the other over-engages.

The man, experiencing emotions with which he is uncomfortable, begins to wall himself off from the emotions. He find ways to avoid the situation and becomes emotionally distant. He desperately needs someone to walk along side of him, but he will not admit it because that would be a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, if and when he tries to share his pain, many men who are not in his situation fail to notice his cry for help. This creates a downward spiral of separation until it begins to impact his spiritual walk.

The woman, experiencing emotions that expose her deepest beliefs about herself, begins to over-engage. The natural ability of a woman to nurture becomes like a gene that over-expresses a protein and causes abnormal cell growth. Everything concerning her loved one becomes more important then her own needs. Without caution, she experiences weariness. She is physically exhausted, intellectually spent, emotionally drained, and spiritually weak.

Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King wrote a study entitled Experiencing God – Knowing and doing the will of God in which they refer to experiencing a crisis of belief. Regardless of the caregiver’s belief system, to a man and to a woman, each one questions why God would allow this to happen. In 2014 I submitted a query through a reports network asking this simple question: Assuming that God existed and you were to meet Him face to face, what one question would you ask Him? This query was sent to atheists and agnostics. The response was overwhelming and became the subject of my book God, I was wondering…

There were many responses that dealt with this one thought. “God, why would you allow…” It does not matter whether you profess a faith or not, in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, this question is not far from the lips of those facing this transition from parent, spouse, or family member to caregiver. The transition weaves its way through these four pillars of life. The physical transition happens in an instant. The intellectual acceptance is not always realized due to denial and the grief experience.

However, once intellectual acceptance is realized, each gender responds with deeply guarded emotions. Eventually, the emotional pain becomes normalized and the caregiver accepts that emotional pain is part of the personal sacrifice. With the emotional acceptance there eventually comes a spiritual acceptance that God has put the caregiver of this specific journey, not as a source of punishment, but to minister to others with whom He wants to have a relationship. The caregiver’s journey is first about the spiritual maturing of the caregiver and then the growth and maturity of others.

My story does not end with the experience of my son. Ten years later in 2011, I found myself watching as my mother, for the first time in her life, experienced the instant transition from spouse to caregiver when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. God had been preparing me for this moment through the trials and tribulations of caring for my son. I had come to understand the struggles associated with being a caregiver. And now equipped, it was my turn to coach my mother through the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual transition.

I have gone on to answer the question “What do I do now?” by becoming a life coach specializing in caregiver coaching. This year I have set strategic goals to expand this message to radio and television media. This year I will begin taping a pilot for The Caregiver’s Corner, a one hour program focused on the special concerns of a caregiver. God does not allow frivolous events to happen without reason or purpose. I have decided to step out on the platform God has given me and focus on walking with others who are struggling with their new role as caregivers.

Every caregiver will walk the dark roads of acceptance. It is imperative for those who finally attain the wisdom of their circumstances to go find those who are still struggling and to walk with them until they can walk along side others. How do you care for the caregiver? How do you ensure that the one following you does not get lost? You turn around, take her by the hand, and you walk along side of her until the time comes for her to turn around and take the hand of the next person.

Written by Kenneth Rupert
Kenneth E Rupert received Board Certification from the International Board of Christian Coaches as a Master Christian Life Coach in 2012. He founded The Vita-Copia Group to offer life coaching focused on mentoring, encouraging, nurturing, and strengthening caregivers who provide care for a special needs child, a parent or spouse with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, a combat wounded veteran or any situation where caregiving is required. Kenneth He has worked for several Fortune 500 companies as a strategic data analyst, a project and program manager, and in various other strategic analytical roles. He is a Financial Peace University coordinator and has developed the Comprehensive Asset Management Program to assist caregivers in creating financial stability. He provides care for a child with disabilities and a father with Alzheimer’s. These experiences allow him to provide a unique perspective on assisting clients with challenging situations. He is considered a thought leader by many in the business world and his innovative teaching style is widely sought after. His challenging messages go to the core of strategic personal development. He is a natural born leader who mentors, encourages, nurtures, and strengthens other men through his work with The M.E.N.S. Network – an organization designed to encourage men’s ministries to focus on relationships and not just programs. He has written a number of books focused on personal development and financial management as well as several resources focused on spiritual growth and maturity. His writing challenges many to be intentional, engaged, and motivated in achieving positive, proactive, and permanent growth. Communicated with the skillfulness of a patient teacher, he seeks to impart his experiential and observational knowledge to his readers as well as his clients. Always offering practical exercises in intellectual gymnastics and word-smithing, he infuses his writing with questions and statements that are designed to cause the readers to stop and think about the motivators, drivers, and passion and how these three impact their actions. In all things, he seeks to add value to the life of the reader an client.

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