Planning your own future when you have a chronically ill family member

Sooner or later all of us want to look into the future. The time comes when we need to sit down with pen and paper and plan out our next few years. The problem with doing this as a Watcher is that chronic illness extends into the future too! It’s a big part of our life and we can’t ignore it or naively pretend that it will simply ‘go away’.

Planning your future with your loved one in mind #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching

How then do we plan our future, keeping in mind our Loved One’s chronic illness?

How to plan your future while thinking of your sick family member

1. We admit it is hard

I think we’d all admit that planning our future is hard anyway. Whether you have too many possibilities or not enough, it’s difficult to figure out what something we have never experienced will look like. Most of us have dreams we’d like to see become reality, or at the very least we dream that one day we will have dreams.

Considering your future in the presence of chronic illness is even harder. The reason for this is that chronic illness is unpredictable. We can’t say how long our Loved One will need us, or how soon they will take a turn for the worse or for the better. We want to be realistic, but we also want to be hopeful.

Of course life is unpredictable for all of us. I could die tomorrow. And yet loving someone with chronic illness means that my future plans will impact them. Whatever I decide there will be some ramifications in their life – and so the burden to ‘choose right’ becomes even heavier.

2. We remember that we are called to love

It is wise to make plans, but it is also loving. Part of caring deeply about someone who is ill is caring for them not only in the present, but also in the future. As Watchers I think we need to consider options early on. Not because we are negative or fatalistic, but because this is our opportunity to love as Jesus did.

Perhaps we need to choose to stay close to our ageing parents rather than accept our dream job overseas. Perhaps it is wiser to choose the pathway in our career that means should our brother’s health decline, we can easily take a year off to spend time with him.

Do these sound like huge scary sacrifices? Perhaps they are, but in the right time and place they may be the right ones – and we do not follow a God who was afraid to sacrifice.

3. We remember to include others

It is never wise to make decisions in isolation. Being alone distorts perspectives and makes tiny grains of sand into rocks and possibilities into definites. Talk with your Loved One. Be realistic but gentle. Include them in your plans.

Talk with other people too. Be open and willing to share your doubts and your fears. There’s nothing shameful about admitting you are reducing or changing your dreams for the sake of your Loved One.

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4. We pray for flexibility and grace

Perhaps Western Culture pats us on the back and tells us we can both love and pursue success, that we can sacrifice and achieve our dreams – but this is not always the case.

I do not mean that we have to give up all chance of hope and joy, but I want to suggest that perhaps Watching means you are being called to discover your delight in other places.

Our dreams are normally our first ideas – but there are many more we have not yet thought about. Why not be open to the reality that fulfilment can be found in a multitude of places, when we seek it first in one Person?

There is nothing in us that means that we deserve to have life exactly how we want it. In an ideal situation we may choose X and Y, that is true – but life is not ideal, and so we may have to choose Z instead. Life is messy and complex, so let us pray for contentment.

5. And so what do we do?

We pray and we Watch. We plan and we Hope. We hold onto the reality that just because we slam a door shut doesn’t mean it’s locked. We rest assured in the fact that God has a plan for each of us, and it is never a cobbled together, second-rate plan, however much it might feel like it at times.

We do not need to lose heart, my fellow Watchers. Our God is the King of eternity, and all of our future is cradled gently in His hands, and so we have Hope.

//Have you ever had to change your future plans because someone you love was sick? Where did you find hope in such a tough time?

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.