Hope for the Caregiver – Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

It’s Okay To Cry

Learning to accept tears and crying as normal is part of the process of caring for a person with a chronic illness. When we care about, and for someone, it is normal to shed tears when they hurt, when they face sickness.

It’s okay to cry. The Heavenly Father cares about our tears. In this chapter, we look at what God’s word says about crying.

My Story

The door opened revealing the surgical oncologist in her light green colored scrubs and matching booties. As her eyes scanned the room looking for me, I stood and walked in her direction. There was a deathly serious, all business look on her ashen-face. 

“Dr. Kepler, we just finished your wife Benita’s surgery. She’ll be moving to recovery in the next fifteen to twenty minutes. You can see her then.”

I looked at the young woman’s now pallor face. She displayed tiredness from getting up early and then being in surgery for over three hours. I sensed a fear as she approached me.

She looked down at her feet for a brief moment and took a deep breath.

This can’t be good. Dr. Landry’s having to muster a lot of courage, I thought.

She looked up at me. “Let’s go somewhere private,” she said looking over my shoulder at my anxious family, friends, and coworkers seated behind me.

I nodded.

She leads me to a small private consultation room. She took my hands in hers.

“I’m so sorry,” she began. “It is Melanoma Cancer. The Melanoma has spread into the lymph nodes. I had to remove thirty-four of them.”

My eyes filled with tears instantly. They just as fast were flowing down my cheeks. I tried without success to not sob.

She went on to tell me the five-year survival rate for Melanoma Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. She expressed concern about the distance from the initial site that the Melanoma had already spread.

“Is the Melanoma Cancer going to kill her?” I asked. I needed to hear her say it.

“Probably. Yes, well, yes it will if Benita’s neuroendocrine carcinoid cancer doesn’t kill her first. Having two types of cancers makes the treatment very difficult. It removes most of the normal treatment options,” said the oncological surgeon.

I briefly thought back to December 2013 when Benita had surgery for a malrotated intestine. The surgeon was surprised when they found a malignant tumor. It had not shown on the CT Scans, MRIs, X-rays or any of the other tests they had performed before the surgery.

“I understand,” I said. Tears were now streaming down my face. 

But I didn’t understand. Why my wife?

“Are you going to be okay, Dr. Kepler? Do you want me to get someone to be with you? I could ask a family member or maybe someone from the chaplain’s office to be with you.”

I just looked at her and started crying uncontrollably for a couple of minutes. She hugged me until I quit sobbing.

“Thank you for everything,” I choked out. I thought about how hard it had to be for Dr. Landry to share this news with me. She was the same age as my oldest son. 

Yes, delivering bad news is hard. Receiving the life-altering message is harder.

“We’ll talk when I check on your wife in a few hours,” she said. The color was returning to her face now that she had transferred the information to me.

I nodded. I knew I needed to tell the family and friends in the waiting rooms, start calling people and get the prayer warriors praying. 

The oncological surgeon nodded, turned and left the room.

I moved slowly from the consultation back toward my entourage. With each step closer to the group I teared up more. Through teary eyes, I told the family and friends present but somehow kept my emotions under control. As I called my wife’s sisters, I became choked up and started crying.

A friend I had grown-up mentioned that God collects our tears in a bottle (Psalms 56:8-9) and that since God collects the tears, they must be important. 

“Crying must be okay if God collects our tears,” he said. He gave me that much-needed reminder that God cares for us.

As an ordained minister and ordained deacon, I had visited hospitals hundreds of times over the previous thirty-five years as I provided pastoral care to church members, their family, and friends. While many people were uncomfortable in a hospital setting, I wasn’t. I had held their hands, prayed with them, watched them cry when the physician would deliver bad news or when their loved one passed into eternity. During all these visits I never once wept.

When the patient was my wife, I cried in public and bawled in private. 

I want you to know it is okay for you to cry.

The Bible Says

Psalm 56:8-9 (KJV), “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.”

The Meaning Of The Bible Verse

Why would one keep tears in a bottle? The idea behind the keeping of “tears in a bottle” is a remembrance. King David, the writer of these verses, is expressing a deep trust in God. He knows that God will remember his sorrow. He knows God will remember his tears. He also is sure the God will not forget about him. David is confident that God is on his side. As Believers in Jesus Christ, we have that same confidence.

Pray Using The Bible Verse

  1. Heavenly Father, thank you for tears. We acknowledge that our tears help us identify and deal with our feelings. 
  2. Lord Jesus, thank you for letting us know crying is okay by collecting our tears in a bottle. We admit we don’t understand how this is done.
  3. We confess that it is comforting to know that our tears are noticed by God, that He keeps track of our tears and is here with us when we are crying as He collects the tears.

Applying the Verse to Receive God’s Hope for the Caregiver

  1. Are you holding your emotions in check or are you letting go and trusting in God to comfort you? Remember a time when you felt overwhelmed with the news of your loved one’s chronic illness. Did you suppress your emotions or did you allow yourself to cry and tell God how you were feeling? Explain. 
  2. Have you given your loved one permission to cry? Sometimes the mere ministry of your presence and telling them it is okay to cry will provide a needed release for them and you. Say out loud, “[Enter loved one’s name], I just want you to know, it is okay to cry. Sometimes I weep and let the tears flow too.” 
  3. List two times you have been in sorrow concerning your loved one’s illness. Have you cried out to God with your concerns? Read  2 Samuel 22:7. The verse is a reminder that when we cry out to God in our distress, our cries are heard by the Lord. The passage tells us our cries “enter His ears.” 

Author: Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a full-time writer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a career military father and stay at home mother. He lived in six states and attended eight different schools before graduating high school. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with minors in English and Military Science from The University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Arts and Master of Religious Education degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the Doctor of Education degree. Before writing full-time, he worked as a US Army officer for 10-years, religious educator for 18-years, and as an IT software application engineer for over 20-years. He is a widower. He lives in North Texas with his cat Lacey.

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