WISDOM
A Mini-Vacation from Suffering
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05/16/2016

Give a person who is suffering a mini-vacation from suffering.

Eileen Russell, a clinical psychologist says, “It’s easy to become myopic about personal pain, and we can get stuck in negative ways of thinking.”  She suggests that caregivers find ways of lightening a heavy situation.

How can we help a person take a break—a mini-vacation from suffering?

Dr. Rachel Remen (Author of Kitchen Table Wisdom) gives us one idea for a mini-vacation.  In the following story, a husband gives his wife a wonderful vacation from suffering:

After completing the last treatment in a year of potent chemotherapy, one of my clients went to San Francisco overnight with her husband to celebrate.

Her oncologist had tried to discourage her from this as it had seemed rather pointless to him.  She was still far too weak to see the sights, go to a restaurant, or participate in any of the fabled activities of this rich and complex city.  He just couldn’t imagine why she might want to go if she could not do these things.  He had suggested she wait a few months until she was stronger, but she and her husband had gone anyway and stayed in a nice hotel.

Afterwards, I asked her about it.  “It was wonderful,” she said, “First we ordered room service.  They brought it in on a table with a cloth a half-inch thick.  My first meal with a tray!  It was elegant with wine glasses and the butter carved into little flowers.  And the food!

We sat in this lovely room over-looking a little park and ate real food that I could actually taste. Then we took long, long hot baths and used up every single towel in the bathroom (great big thick towels—there were twelve of them).  And, we used up all those delicious-smelling things in the little bottles.  We watched movies, ate most of what was in the little refrigerator and sat outside on the terrace in our bathrobes watching the moon rise over the city.

We found all the pillows that they hide in the dresser drawers and slept in this king-size bed with eight pillows.  We saw the sunrise.  We used it all up.  It was glorious!”

Her husband gave her a wonderful mini-vacation from suffering.

Here are some other ideas on how to give the suffering person a mini-vacation:

  • Instead of lecturing my husband and me to “get out of the house and do something fun” after I had a miscarriage, some friends sent us dated coupons for a dinner at our favorite restaurant and movie coupons.  That gift helped get us out of the house and forget our sadness for a little while.
  • Watch a television program or a video with me.  This gives me the satisfaction of enjoying your company without the responsibility of entertaining you.
  • My friend Amanda says that when she was recovering after breast cancer surgery, she and her husband had a “mini-vacation” everyday as they sat together and watched an episode from their favorite TV series.  We looked forward each day to that time.
  • Another example from our book, The Compassionate Congregation, is from Amy Harwell’s book, When Your Friend Gets Cancer.  Amy says, “Think of ways to make me smile.  My friend Pat hired a clown to come to the hospital with bright colorful helium balloons.  Half of them had ‘Amy’ on them.  The other half said, ‘I love you.’  Those joyous balloons were a wonderful, blatant denial of the automatic doom and gloom associated with the diagnosis of cancer.  They added a welcome contrast to the sterility of the hospital décor.  I tied the balloons to the night stand where they could blow in the vent, a bright streamer of color.”

Use your imagination and figure out a way to give the one who is suffering a mini-vacation from the heavy situation they are going through.  What a blessing that will be!

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