The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Archive for pain

Beyond Casseroles: How to Start a Chronic Illness/Pain Ministry

Does your church know how to reach out to people who live with chronic illness?

How should you react when God doesn’t choose to heal?

When are casseroles and get-well cards not appropriate? If you’ve ever wondered about the do’s and don’t’s of witnessing to someone with a chronic illness, you won’t want to miss this!

  • Lisa will lead you through how your church can more effectively outreach to people who live daily with illness and pain through her own experiences and stories of others.
  • You will be given an opportunity to see “church” through the eyes of someone in pain, and recognize the small changes that your church can make to have a more effective illness/pain ministry to hurting individuals.

Appropriate for churches, church leadership or conferences. 50 minutes, but can be adapted.

How to Help a Hurting Friend

Have you ever had a friend who was hurting and you didn’t know what to say? How do you know when to quote the Scriptures and when to just listen? If someone you care about lives with chronic illness, grief, or emotional pain, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to learn how to be a good friend. If you live with illness or disability, you will smile in understanding as Lisa shares her experiences and the stories of others who live with chronic illness. The time spent will give you a sense of relief and comfort, as you learn how to express your sincerity to hurting friends.

Appropriate for Christian and secular audiences. 45 minutes, but can be adapted.

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Invisible Disabilities: Effective Tools Every Church Should Have


As presented at the Joni and Friends Disability Ministry Summit, 2007

With nearly one in two people having a chronic illness, it impacts most families; the invisibility of it, however, often inhibits the church from realizing its prevalence and how many people are suffering silently. It’s easy for hurt feelings to abound and for ill people to feel like a burden, not a blessing. Awareness and simple tools to increase your outreach to both members and non-members will make your church a shelter from life’s storms.

YOU WILL LEARN…

  • Why the church needs to know that half their audience on Sunday may look a lot better than how they feel. For example, 75% of marriages that include an illness end in divorce. Learn why illness ministry needs to be understood by all church staff and how to get their attention when they already have too much to do.
  • How to uncover the needs people with illness have if they don’t speak up until they’ve decided to leave the church. How to avoid hurt feelings and increase communication.
  • Practical ways to get your church body more enthusiastic about meeting the needs of church members who live with illness, how to approach your church about it, and set ministry priorities. How to teach them about the blessings the chronically ill will bring, not burdens.
  • How to respond when the church leadership says, “But he’s not a member… so we can’t help him.” Reaching beyond our church walls is vital because New Age religions do it very well and people in pain follow whoever shows them love.
  • How to create a welcoming environment for the chronically ill members and visitors in ten inexpensive, fast ways.

Appropriate for Christian audiences. 60 minutes, but can be adapted.

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Communicating with Your Spouse About Your Chronic Pain

This article is free to reprint. Keep everything “as is” and include the resource “box” at the end that refers back to Rest Ministries. Thank you! ~Lisa

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Communicating with Your Spouse About Your Chronic Pain

couple-cuddle“I feel like there are thumb tacks in my bed!” I say to my husband as he crawls into the other side of our bed. “I know there is nothing there, but I just feel bruised all over.”

“I’m sorry,” he offers with a sympathetic voice, but there is little else he can do.

“Actually, I sort of feel nauseous too,” I share. “It’s probably just the drugs. I wonder if I should eat something or if that would make it worse. I’m sure it will pass if I can just get to sleep.” I look over and he is already starting to snore.

For many of us, our spouse is our best friend. If our relationship is good, we want to share our feelings with them. Even if our relationship is hurting, we feel that by explaining our pain, our spouse may sympathize and be more loving toward us.

Although we don’t want to burden them by constantly sharing about our aches and pains, when we are hurting there is a desire to be heard and have our feelings validated. By talking out loud about what we are feeling, it somehow makes the pain real. It’s no longer “all in our head.”

Galatians 6:2 tells us “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” At some point we must carry these burdens to the Lord, as well as a close friend, rather than just count on our spouse to carry the burden of listening about each ache.

Although your spouse may not be suffering from a physical ailment, there are still many losses that he is grieving. For example, it is an emotional thing to watch someone you love be in pain and not be able to fix it. He may be suffering as he watches you lose the ability to do things you love. He likely misses the couple outings you once took together when you could do physically active events, whether it was skiing, or just taking long walks together on the beach. He may be frustrated that even his hugs can cause you to wince. Counselors have found that there are three major areas where marriages suffer: money, time and physical intimacy.

Your marriage may be having difficulties in all three, specifically because of the role chronic illness has taken on within your marriage. Is it possible to “share our burdens” with our spouse without overburdening him and making him want to run the other way every time we open our mouth to share another symptom of our ailments?

Be a team with your spouse

It’s you and your spouse “up against” the illness. Although you may feel like your spouse is merely a spectator, intentionally make him a part of your team fighting the battle of pain, in whatever way he is most comfortable.

Ask your spouse if you can share some information about your illness so he has a better idea of what you are going through, but don’t overwhelm him. If he is willing to attend a few doctors appointments with you, let him, and give him time to ask the doctor his own questions. For example, giving him a brochure may be better than handing him a 250-page book. If he listens to podcasts, find some that would be beneficial for him to listen to. Acknowledge that there may be role or responsibility shifts in the marriage due to the illness. Be open about what you are struggling with and where you need help. For example, if you can no longer scrub that bathroom but, let him know before the grime gets out of hand.

Connie Kennemer lives with multiple sclerosis and she candidly shares that struggle that it can be to find the right balance and word. “I am not as mobile as I used to be and I often ask more of my husband such as ‘Can you work at home this afternoon?’ or ‘Why do you have to go to another meeting?’ How much should he accommodate me because my body is changing? He doesn’t always know when to stop and encourage me to try things myself. This is a constant challenge.”

Be reasonable in your expectations

We often marry someone who has our opposite personality style. If you need to read every article about your illness, but your spouse doesn’t, it may simply be because your spouse has a more laissez faire attitude, not because he doesn’t care. His response to a crisis may appear to be nonchalant on the outside, but it doesn’t mean he is not worried and concerned about you.

On the flip side, maybe you are emotionally overwhelmed the diagnosis and you need to just sit back and take it all in before you start doing research, while your spouse is spending hours at the computer finding out everything he can on the latest treatments, medications, and signing you up for the healing service at church. He may accuse you of being in denial about it all, since you aren’t showing as much passion as he is in finding out more about your illness. An excellent book recommend in helping you understand your communication styles better is “Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti” by Bill and Pam Farrell.

Have information about your illness available for when he is ready

If you are having a conversation and you want to explain more about how you are feeling, or details about the illness itself, you may want to have books with sticky notes on the pages you think he’s find most helpful. Or bookmark pages you can read together and then discuss. Connie says, “After ten years of living with MS, I am past the whiney stage, but Rex sometimes holds back; that’s when I need to ask him more questions about his feelings.”

Creatively keep him informed about the embarrassing parts of the illness

If your illness is going to cause you to be in the bathroom during eighty percent of the events you attend together, you need to let your spouse know that this is part of the disease. Health organizations have brochures on symptoms. You can say, “I’m dealing with some personal matters of this illness right now; I don’t really want to talk about them yet, but they’re in this brochure if you’re wondering.” Avoid sharing every detail if you can.

Look for other ways to vent besides always dumping on your spouse

“I realized that I held onto all of my frustrations of pain during the day and then ‘threw’ them at my husband as he came in the door,” shares Cheryl, who lives with chronic fatigue syndrome. “My actions set the tone for our entire evening and even though I felt better, he felt worse, and it lasted all night. He was beginning to dread coming home at night.”

Cheryl began to put aside the last two hours of her day to spend time writing in her journal, praying and doing something she enjoyed that calmed her. “Writing in my journal gave me the chance to express my frustrations, and then prayer really began to minimize the negativity too. My husband quickly noticed a difference and it’s made our relationship so much stronger.”

Find some ways to get involved in your community or a special hobby

What else do you have going on in your life, other than your illness? It’s easy to be overwhelmed with doctor’s appointments and just maintaining our illness, but it can result in a pretty dull life. Even if you have limited energy, do something you’ve always wanted to do that doesn’t have a deadline. Put together memory albums for your grandchildren, clean out just one drawer, find a new craft or hobby, volunteer to be on a prayer chain. Soon you will find that your illness actually is the last thing you want to talk about when you have had such more interesting events in your day.

Conclusion

So. . . How much is too much? It’s different for each person and each marriage relationship. Learn to look at your situation objectively. How many times are you bringing up your illness? How are you benefiting from talking about it more than necessary? Do you need understanding? Validation? Perhaps you need actual physical help with tasks. Ask yourself if talking about your illness could be a way of getting your spouse’s attention, and this seems to be the only thing he responds to? Regardless of whether it is attention, acknowledgment or understanding, how can you get this from God instead? How is it negatively affecting your life or those around you?

And then take a moment to really ask yourself “Is there a better, more creative way that I can create intimacy with my spouse, other than just complaining about each ache and pain? What activities can I still share that could help us grow closer together?”

And then when you want to share more about your pain or illness say a prayer first: “Lord, You know I don’t want to burden anyone else, especially when they cannot fix it. I really need a hug from you right now. I know that my spouse cares about me and wants to encourage me, even when he doesn’t always show it the way I want; please give me the wisdom to know when to ask for help and comfort from him/her and when to come only to You and ask you to fulfill all of my emotional needs.”

For more articles and important support while living with chronic illness or pain visit Rest Ministries so you don’t miss our fresh content and be entered for our monthly giveaway. Lisa Copen is the director of Rest Ministries, author of “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend” and founder of National Invisible chronic illness Awareness Week.

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6 Reasons I Support Invisible Illness Week

rose

  1. Surprisingly, nearly 1 in 2 people in the USA have a chronic condition and most of them are invisible.
  2. There are too many people suffering silently, believing no one cares. I want them to know I do care.
  3. I will likely accidentally say the wrong thing at some point, but I still want to learn how to say what encourages someone with illness best.
  4. 70% of suicides are the results of “controllable physical pain.” We never know that we may be the last person someone looks toward for hope and a reason to live.
  5. Illness is one of the most lonely experiences a person can have. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  6. People with illness are often bombarded with advice. I want to be a safe haven for those with illness who just need someone to listen.

Add your own, edit, and tell someone!

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The “Times” Can Bring Fresh Awareness

Last winter I got into  a conversation with someone about what I believed 2009 would hold for illness ministry in the church. I predicted that pastors may become more aware of how many people live with chronic illness.

60505789.thb I thought this because:

  • Stress can make an illness be triggered or exasperated and so illnesses may actually increase or make  pain levels more  unbearable.
  • More families will seek counsel. The stress in relationships, finances, loss of jobs, etc. will bring more people who are willing to ask for assistance in their marriages or relationships.
  • More people may seek financial help who would not have before. When church’s asked why families or individuals had gotten themselves into these financial predicaments, a great deal of time it would come down to medical expenses.

I just read this quote in the Minstry Today newsletter and it was a good reminder as to the fact that:

(1) pastors are becoming more aware of just how many people are hurting;

(2) they really do care! Now may be an appropriate time to approach them about starting a HopeKeepers Group or perhaps having a table after church for Invisible Illness Week.

“It’s important for us [pastors] to be in touch with the people we are speaking to and speak in a way that is understandable and bring the relevant, powerful, life-transforming message of the Word of God to them. It’s just something I have interest in. I want to know what people are thinking, what they are facing, what they are grappling with. … One thing I’ve become very aware of in recent days is just how many suffering people there are out there, people that are hurting. It’s been said that if you preach to people who are suffering, you will never lack for an audience. There certainly is a large audience of people who are in pain today.” —Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship

Your thoughts? Have you approached pastoral care recently at your church for one of the above reasons?

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How Can We Measure Chronic Pain

PET scan of a normal 20-year-old brain.
Image via Wikipedia

Up until now we tried to come up with words to describe our pain: needles, throbbing, aching, numb, etc. The the medical world moved pup to asking you to give them a number or choose “a face” of carton characters. Although I can see how this method makes sense for people in acute pain, I never know how to answer the question when asked some place like the ER.

“What is your pain between 1 and 10?” they ask.
“Uh… do you mean my ankle that I’ here about or overall?”

Even the person asking doesn’t always answer the same. Because I would say the scale changes every 6 months. The pain gets worse but I learn to live with it. What was a “10” 5 years ago is now just a 5 or 6.

I need to express that I am in pain, but I need to leave plenty of room for those days (or nights) that the body flares up so badly I really cannot move a limb or finger.

Well, there may be a solution on the horizon (if you have high hopes). According to a new series of studies that has been studying brain imaging techniques [such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)] have shown “distinct differences between the brains of people in pain and others who are not.” Scientists discover way of measuring pain (7/7/09)

“Pain seems to increase the blood flow to certain parts of the brain, roughly in proportion to the amount of pain felt, and we can measure that activation in a brain scan,” said Irene Tracey, professor of anaesthetic science at Oxford University and director of its centre for fMRI and the brain.

The good news is that when we are trying to find a doctor who believes us about our pain level or a lawyer that believes we have a disability case, a certain amount of our pain may be more verifiable.  But I still wonder if what my brain showed would have the same adjustments as I do now when they ask, “How much pain are you in?”

Would my brain show my actual pain level, or how much better or worse the pain was than 6 months earlier? And would it take into account that my brain processed the pain differently the umpteenth time around and tolerated more?

Food for thought…

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Buzzy Brings Relief When Getting Shots

buzzyIf you are the mom of a school age child, it seems like summer has just begun, and yet soon those physicals will need to be scheduled. What does this mean? Sometimes. . . shots!

Who among us have not said, “It hurts me more than it hurts you?” And if you don’t have children. . . all those who LIKE getting shots, raise your hand! (Yeah, I didn’t think there would be many hands held up high saying “me!)

Well, here is a very cool gadget! Buzzy is a FDA-approved plastic “bee” that uses mechanical vibrations to “confuse” nerve endings. The toy bee will distract your child from the pain of a shot, finger prick–even an IV insertion.

(Meaning: if you have a child with a chronic illness, this is MUST-HAVE. I was just talking to a mom of a tween daughter who is on rheumatoid arthritis treatment injections and she shared how painful they were and how badly she felt.) You can even take the sting out of splinter-removal, bee stings or minor burns.

And if your child is freaked out by the fact that it’s a bee (my son is currently terrified of bees)just order the plain black vibrating gadget without the stripes, allowing your child or teenager to personalize Buzzy® into a Pirate, an Astronaut, or leave it black and cool. Below for example are “Buzzy Chix” (Couldn’t we all have a little fun decorating our Buzzys with some craft paint?)

Buzzy’s web site states, “Our goal is to provide options and information about acute pain management, particularly needle procedures. For needle phobia, newly diagnosed diabetes or leukemia, or immunization information, read on!”

You just bring with you to the doctor. Just press on the skin during the shot to rapidly reduce needle pain. Can you imagine the nurses saying, “Where did you get that?” Think of the tears that won’t be shed. If this works as well as all of the testimonials say it does, imagine no longer sitting in the doctor’s room waiting. . . and waiting. . . while your child hears the screams of other children as they get their shots.

Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Well, of course, it took a mom! Buzzy was developed by pediatric emergency physician (and mom of three) Amy Baxter and it effectiveness for kids age 4+ is supported by a bunch of scientific evidence.

Scientists, moms, and nurses may all speak highly of it, but you can’t get a better testimonial than from Jill, Age 5: “Buzzy made my
shot not hurty!”

So, check out their web site. You can even tell your own needle phobia story. After all,who says this is just for kids? After being in the hospital last fall for a week and having them stick me over and over until my entire stomach was purple, I could have used a Buzzy about day 3. Hey, I’m a wimp with some things and not afraid to admit it!

Buzzy is $35 so it’s not a cheap gadget. But gather together a few mom friends and make the investment together.

Visit their web site or call 877-805-BUZZ (2899). You can also watch a video of Buzzy in action.

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