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Finding Your Ocean While Caring for Your Child With a Medical Condition

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The ocean can heal.

It’s true.

I am living proof.

On a sunny day, the ocean surface sparkles like diamonds almost blinding me. Happy sounds fill the beach, children laughing, waves crashing on the shore, and birds crying as they compete for leftover snacks. I wiggle my toes through the soft sand and feel the warm sun on my face. When I am near the beach, I can smell and taste the salty air. Ah, serenity.

I moved close to the ocean in southern California in the midst of a divorce. Some days I walk on the beach and other days, I literally plop my chair down in the surf and breathe. The sound of the waves soothes my aching soul. I usually bring a book, but I mostly watch the waves or close my eyes to listen better. The sounds calm me and I can feel myself healing.

Difficult thoughts will arise, but while I am near the water, those thoughts are easily put aside. My usual negative self-talk is drowned out by the sounds and sights of beach life. It is similar to what meditation does for me; I have learned to push my bleak thoughts away. I leave the beach feeling rested and calm. After years of caring for my children, including my daughter with health issues, it is transformative.

What is it about the beach that is so magical? I believe it’s because all five senses are alive.

1) Hear the waves.

2) Smell the tangy air.

3) See the ocean blue.

4) Feel the sand.

5) Taste the salty air.

There are also similar moments while using one of our senses such as looking at mountains, hearing the rain on a metal roof, smelling a fragrant flower, petting a kitty, or tasting a decadent chocolate cake. What is it about those moments that bring so much joy? The key is it brings us into the present moment. And when life is hard and full of worry because your child is sick, being in the moment keeps us from future tripping. I spent too much of my time worrying about the next diagnosis or surgery to enjoy many such moments along the way.

Those positive sensations also can pull you out of a negative mindset. Although we have “stopped and smelled the roses” randomly in our lives, using our senses more mindfully can help us enjoy the small and big positive moments in our lives.

Using our senses is also a grounding practice for anxiety, flashbacks, and unwanted memories that medical parents face almost every day. Grounding brings us back to the moment and the room we’re in when our thoughts spin out of control. I found it impossible to stop those thoughts and when I would verbalize them, my ex-husband coined it my “black-hat death spiral.” I didn’t do enough grounding while I was in the thick of raising my kids, especially my daughter with all her health issues. It is now necessary for my survival.

It’s OK if the ocean works one day and something else later. I have always loved beautiful views without understanding how powerful they can be to my psyche. Do what works for you. Find something that pulls you out of your busy life and your mind for a moment or two.

What calms your soul using your senses? What everyday sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels calm you? The morning smell of your coffee? Seeing the sun rays come into your home? Hearing your favorite song on the radio? The taste of a decadent dessert? Or touching a smooth, cool surface?

Have you found your ocean?

I hear the whoosh of the waves

Getty image by plprod.

Originally published: January 24, 2021
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