The One Word I Won't Use to Describe Caregivers Anymore

For years I’ve proclaimed and written that special needs moms are superheroes. I’ve often proclaimed my awe, amazement and admiration for the special needs mom. I’ve shared my thoughts on my own wife and her days as a caregiver to our own son with profound special needs.

But I was wrong.

Caregivers are not superheroes.

You see, something happened earlier this year that changed my whole perspective on caregivers.

My wife became my caregiver.

A few months ago, I was abruptly diagnosed with chronic end-stage renal disease. Simply put, my kidneys have failed me.

My wife and I had just led a marriage workshop for special needs couples in Atlanta. Two days later, I was in the emergency room signing a form allowing for the possible amputation of my foot and being informed I was in renal failure.

Thirty days in the hospital. Five months in a cast. Multiple surgeries. Myriads of doctor’s appointments, tests and evaluations.

Oh yeah, she also works full-time in ministry and cares for our own son’s special needs, and his around-the-clock care.

That’s how I discovered I’ve been wrong all these years. Completely missed the mark on this one.

Caregivers are not superheroes. Superheroes don’t get weary beyond their breaking point. Superheroes don’t hurt, cry, shake and struggle to hold it all together. Superheroes don’t cry themselves to sleep at night with a mixture of worry and exhaustion.

But caregivers can. Compassion fatigue is not just real, it’s devastating — emotionally, physically and relationally.

Caregivers are ordinary people who have been thrust into situations requiring extraordinary strength, courage, faith and resiliency. I believe superheroes don’t rely on the grace of God, but caregivers can’t get by without it.

Caregivers walk with grace, dignity, resolve and determination that separates them from the rest of us.

Calling a caregiver a superhero is a misnomer. Superheroes should be so strong. Superheroes should admire, respect and look up to caregivers.

And so should you.

And me.

They don’t just deserve our appreciation and admiration, but it’s about time we show them how much we respect them and the roles they play.

You have no idea how much a little acknowledgment and encouragement can mean to the struggling caregiver. It may be the one thing that gets them through the day.

Caregivers might be uncomfortable asking for help. So why make them ask? Take the initiative and ask them what they need from you. Be engaged. Not a day should go by without you affirming the caregivers in your life. Not one day. The caregiver in your family should be the most respected member of your family.

Serve those who serve others as caregivers. Let your own strength be measured by the depths of your sacrificial service to the caregivers in your life. Because they can hurt. They can struggle. They can fight battles every day in their own minds before even getting out of bed. They might have rope burns from pulling themselves out of the pit so often. They are broken — beautifully broken.

No one gives unconditional love like a caregiver.

And now that I’m the one receiving the care, I realize no one understands unconditional love like the one being cared for.

Superhero, no.

Don’t insult the caregiver.

Follow this journey on Goodnight Superman.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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