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Coping with hard times if you’re not spiritual or religious

(76 Posts)
Nanamar Sat 22-Feb-20 15:46:34

I am going through some seriously sad times right now. My husband has stage 4 lung cancer - scans were clear a few months ago but it has shown up in lymph nodes. Our son is getting a divorce from a woman we love. It’s a mutual decision and they’re determined to keep it amicable for their four-year-old son but I know how things can get ugly. These things are frankly part of a long list of issues that I’ve dealt with since 2014 - illness and death of both parents, son’s clinical depression, husband’s many health issues. I am okay - healthy as a horse, efficient, organized but I am not sure who I am anymore because there are so many things affecting the ones whom I live and I can’t seem to distance myself from them because I have to help and cope with those things. I do see a mental health provider and, for the third time in my life, am taking medications to help me with the stress. I know that if I had a strong religious faith or spiritual belief it would be a comfort but I just don’t. My doc has suggested that I need a similar “outlet” to which I can channel my anxiety and stress but I just don’t know what that can be, let alone that babysitting for my wonderful grandson (the light of my life) nonetheless takes time as does dealing with my DH’s health needs and appointments. I know there are worse tragedies in the world - some have actually occurred to close friends (death of adult children, sudden death of husband, etc) but I am struggling. Any suggestions for someone for whom faith and spirituality just don’t seem to be part of her make-up?

DoraMarr Sat 22-Feb-20 16:24:39

I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. I have no religious faith either, and while I haven’t had as much to cope with as you are at the moment I have had difficult times. All I can say is that things pass, and get resolved, and all we can do is lean on those who love us and our own inner strength. At least we don’t have that dreadful burden of feeling we are being “tested”, and that we need to “fight.” ( My sister exhorted me to fight my cancer, and she would fight with me! I preferred to trust the medical profession.) It must be very difficult for you at the moment, but try to find time for yourself, get as much help as you can afford so you are not worn out, (I had a lovely cleaner for a few months,) and try to get outside. I find music very helpful, especially live concerts. flowers

Greymar Sat 22-Feb-20 16:58:14

Please PM me if you wish.

Yennifer Sat 22-Feb-20 17:03:18

You need to find the time to take care of you and do things you enjoy. Swimming and a sauna for me. Sending you good vibes x

FlexibleFriend Sat 22-Feb-20 17:09:28

Just breathe and put one foot in front of the other, it's surprising how well you cope when you have no choice.

Luckygirl Sat 22-Feb-20 17:14:43

I know exactly where you are coming from. Just been having this discussion with one of my DDs. My OH died 3 weeks ago after months (well years really) of him being ill and me trying my best to care for him. DD is convinced that his "soul" is out there somewhere and that is a comfort to her, even though she is not conventionally religious.

I find no such comfort, only in the idea that the love he shared lives on in us; and his atoms and energy will remain in the universe as in the laws of conservation of energy.

But of course what lives on in me is not just the love and the good bits; but also the bad bits, of which there were many, especially as his sanity had left him during his last year.

And - if I was honest - there is also anger there that he refused during his lifetime to make a decision about what he wanted to be done if he became very ill - did he want to go into hospital (which he hated) for interventions, or did he want to be left to die in peace and comfort? The hospice consultant tried to discuss this with him on several occasions but he resisted this and left me to take the decision and carry that burden, which feels very heavy at the moment.

This is maybe going to sound a bit blunt and harsh - but can I advise you to try and have this discussion with your husband, so that you feel secure in what his wishes are, should such a situation arise. I would hate anyone else to be left with this pain and doubt that is torturing me at present.

I wish I had words of comfort and certainty to offer you, but sadly I do not. I am only left with the idea that we can but do our best in this world and lean on those who love us, draw on our own inner resources, and seek positive things to latch on to and take joy in.

Life can be tough - all we can do is accept that.

I am with you in this dilemma, as indeed are many others - you are not walking in this forest of doubt alone; and I send you good wishes flowers

paddyanne Sat 22-Feb-20 17:20:02

If you haven't already then try meditation,It has helped me over many crisis in the past .You can get guided meditation online .Its my go to when life throws horrors at me .

BlueSky Sat 22-Feb-20 17:29:27

Wise words from DoraMarr here Nanamar for those of us who don't have religious beliefs. Wise words from Luckygirl too. You've said it all. flowers

BlueBelle Sat 22-Feb-20 17:53:49

I am with you too life throws up a lot of curved balls for some people and seems to throw up none for others I do envy (not in a nasty way)people who have the comfort of belief
I don’t know any answers I just wanted you to know you’re not alone 💐

Greenfinch Sat 22-Feb-20 18:39:51

You have a lot to cope with Nanamar.Even those who believe have a need to be supported in human terms. You will get some of that support here but you need face to face contact. Is there a Gransnet meetup near you soon? It is a lot easier to share with people who are unconnected with our ordinary life. I hope you find that support you need. Even if you have no faith you could consider visiting a church or seeing a Christian counsellor.Keep every door open.

rosecarmel Sat 22-Feb-20 18:56:07

Luckygirl, my husband's end was discussed- Many times over- Not in the way you might imagine, but frequently when he described his disdain for life and his spoken desire for it to end, be it by his own hand or his heart suddenly stopping naturally, and the sooner the better-

He said he did not believe in God, but claimed was hated by God-

He's gone now- A pulmonary embolism took him out- Prior to his death I met his requests while at hospital, a shower, a chicken sandwich - He could barely breathe while waiting on test results- I went home to rest- No sooner did I go to sleep I received a call from hospital- He was on life support- When I went back to hospital and asked why he was on life support I was told he asked to be-

My point is, talking about it doesn't always produce a definitive answer or circumstance- If it were a contest, he won- I had to pull the plug, not him-

I owed him that much, considering all he had given, which was a lot- It was the last loving act of our married life- It took me a minute to wrap my head around what he did because I was so emotionally twisted up but once settled I understood it for what it was, which was an act of compassion-

Your emotions are still raw, Luckygirl- You both had a long row to hoe towards the end, to the point of exhaustion- But your memories of how it all ended will begin to give way to remembering better days eventually, in time- flowers

ForestsLakesandMountains Sat 22-Feb-20 19:05:28

yes divorces can get nasty but you love your daughter in law; tell her how you feel and that she's important to you, she sounds like an important part of your life.

Hetty58 Sat 22-Feb-20 19:41:04

Luckygirl, the best laid plans etc. My husband didn't want to die at home. (His own father had and it was very traumatic for the children, hearing his suffering.) He wanted to go to a hospice and have pain relief, peace and quiet - but no pointless or unnecessary treatment.

As things turned out, no hospice place was available. A place to die in hospital depended on accepting some treatment (according to him, but I think he was bullied/persuaded into it) that was part of a clinical trial and might help others.

They were very ill-equipped and short staffed so, despite everyone's best efforts, he didn't receive adequate (let alone the best) care - or even what he'd been prescribed.

In retrospect, I do so wish I'd talked him out of it but, at the time, we just do our best. We don't know how it will turn out. I innocently put my faith in the experts, his two consultants, the doctors and nurses. I won't ever make that mistake again.

It left me so very angry (even with myself) and I made an official complaint as I'd promised him I would. He worried about others who might have to go through the same thing.

I have no religion but I view life as a series of phases, the good, bad and ugly - all temporary. In times of grief I have a strong need to be in situations away from family (where my role is set).

We are completely different beings with other groups of people. I dived into study for a degree, a good distraction and new interest that 'diluted' my feelings of sadness. Being with a new group of people saved my sanity!

Septimia Sat 22-Feb-20 19:51:59

It is said that getting out and walking in the countryside, or even a park, especially under trees etc, is good for depression. I wonder if it could help with coping with hard times, if you are able to do it. It's kind of spiritual without being religious.

I do pray, but I've often felt that it is actually a form of meditation, a way of expressing what I'm feeling (talking to myself?), rather than expecting a heavenly response. Often an answer comes, but that might be because I've been able to put how I feel into words and been able to think straight.

rosecarmel Sat 22-Feb-20 19:52:52

nanamar, if not religion, belief, faith or spirituality, there's philosophy and many other schools of thought that can be used for shifting perceptions -

Urmstongran Sat 22-Feb-20 20:11:09

Lovely posts on here from those with experience of tough times.

Nanamar you are in the eye of the storm right now. Where to turn?

As a Humanist (no belief in Deity or the afterlife) I would say within yourself.

Always remember what Anna Freud said “I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there, all the time.”

optimist Sun 23-Feb-20 09:30:19

Well your message resonates with me. Death of my oldest son in a road accident. death of husband from lung cancer. Death of parents in old age. And mental health issues for my second son resulting in estrangement from his own son and divorce from his wife. I am neither spiritual nor religious. But I work hard at physical exercise reckoning that keeping myself as fit as I can at 76 cant harm. And oh my many good friends offer me so much support and listen to and talk through my woes if needed. Most of my most recent friends I met through joining an art class/a choir and a sports club after my husbands death 5 years ago. Life throws up challenges. If necessary I would resort to counselling it has helped me 3 times in my life. Good luck to you.

Gingergirl Sun 23-Feb-20 09:34:43

I have no particular faith and often wish I did, although I do know that doesn’t necessarily make everything ok. I do a lot of focusing on the present moment and not allowing too much overthinking of the past or future. This does at least allow some acceptance and sometimes contentment.. ways of helping with this include meditation (don’t knock it until you really understand what it is), tai chi, and any therapy that involves light, therapeutic touch....Craniosacral, massage, aromatherapy. These things sound trivial when life is so hard but they all add up. Know that you’re not alone and try to spend gentle time with gentle people!

Mazamet07 Sun 23-Feb-20 09:35:50

My dear friend copes with her curved life balls by going into her garden and weeding like a demon. She cries, howls, uses up her feelings of rage, sadness, helplessness etc in this private physical manner. Then, later, she plants seedlings, to provide her with a glimpse of hope, she says.

25Avalon Sun 23-Feb-20 09:44:13

I do feel for you. You need to look after yourself as well as those near and dear to you. Do you have a carers group near you that you could join? We have a very good one in Bath & North East Somerset. They organise lots of events that are just for you such as creative writing, relaxing reiki massage, craft courses.
If you can do something like this then hopefully you should experience something called mindfulness which allows you to forget who or what you are whilst you are partaking in an interest or hobby as you become completely absorbed. When my son was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy many years ago I had signed up for an art class which I went to although I didn't feel like it. I just went and did as I was told and after a session I realised 2 hours had passed without me thinking of any problems. It was something I had never experienced before and it is therapeutic and I would imagine this is what your gp is suggesting.
As you are fit and healthy why not join a walking group? You walk and talk and are out in the fresh air in the countryside and somehow that seems to help give you the strength to go on.
I do have a sort of religious belief but it is the mindfulness that I have found most helpful. We all have inner resources if we can only tap into them and it is finding the key to do that which helps us to survive and you sound like a survivor to me. BTW check your medication. A friend of mine had severe anxiety which prevented her from partaking in life. It took 2 years to find the right medication and the difference is remarkable.
Hang in there. Very best wishes.

cookiemonster66 Sun 23-Feb-20 09:45:06

Mindfulness has helped me with lots of things, stress, grief, anxiety, you can get books from library or apps on your phone - highly recommended

Lizzle10 Sun 23-Feb-20 09:46:18

I’m so very sorry you are going through tough times , as a mother, a wife And a caregiver I think it just becomes part of our role to support and take the burden of our loved ones it’s a maternal instinct . It’s tough and I don’t know how but we do make it through and if we need medicines or councillors then so be it . Take everyday as it comes you will get there , my partner had a saying ‘ the only way is through’ and it’s true . Do you have someone you could meet for coffee occasionally just to get out and have a chat I always finding talking makes things so much better . I find having someone’s elses company a light relief from everyday struggles . I’m nit particularly religious I may say please god here and there but after going through years of caring for my mother and her death , an unhappy marriage and the heart aches of finally leaving I was very low and lonely this may not appeal to everyone but I eventually visited a medium I was very sceptical but after the visit I felt at peace as if some of my heartache and been lifted and I finally started to move forward . I’m not saying this is for you but you will get through this and come out the other side . Don’t be too hard on yourself life can be terribly tough and heartbreaking but you will get through it x

jaylucy Sun 23-Feb-20 09:50:31

I was brought up as a Christian, went to Sunday school and for several years was actually a Sunday School teacher.
However, my faith (as well as church attendance) has lapsed over the years for various reasons .
The way that I have dealt with things such as the death of my child, miscarriage, break up of marriage, death of parents, my own ill health and then redundancy from a job that I loved, is to spend time on my own.
When my son was little, my mother used to literally push me out of the door every Monday afternoon so that I could go into town for a few hours on my own.
As my son grew up and went to school I found that I needed a short time on my own either getting out of my village or going for a walk, or just sitting and reading a book for a bit.
Even now I find that to spend some time on my own , if even just for 10 minutes is essential - I can sit and watch the birds on my neighbour's roof (they have jackdaws in the chimney) or if the weather is fine, just sitting outside in the garden sometimes with a cuppa, just looking round the plants, watching the clouds pass overhead, watching the bids in the garden etc and just thinking of absolutely nothing of any consequence. I suppose it could be classed as meditation but those 10 minutes or so makes a world of difference and I found ,in the past, when I didn't get that short time I used to get so frazzled! It works for me!

Alexa Sun 23-Feb-20 09:51:03

Nanamar, benevolent Providence is not the only sort of religious idea to believe or trust. There is no question your life is hard at present.

Your faith in your own good will is enough 'religious faith' by which I mean faith in yourself will keep you strong to bear these burdens.
"God is “Being-itself,” which is to say our ability to overcome doubt and anxiety in order to make the necessary choices to commit ourselves to a way of living." Christian existentailism.

The "similar outlet" could be frequent short quiet periods in wild lands, seaside, or garden.

I don't, of course. know what you mean by "religious faith" and assume you mean a loving heavenly father sort of thing.

There are other theories of existence that would bring you comfort.

" God is “Being-itself,” which is to say our ability to overcome doubt and anxiety in order to make the necessary choices to commit ourselves to a way of living." "Christian existentialism".

Diggingdoris Sun 23-Feb-20 09:57:28

In times of extreme stress I have found fresh air and exercise have helped me. Long walks with the dog and gardening like a thing possessed. Along with a close friend who would listen to my rants and mop up my tears was my saviour.