Grace to survive

Published 9:05 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

Tony and Shauna had been married for almost 15 years when he suffered a stroke, which resulted in neurological brain injury.

The couple was hopeful for recovery but their hope waned thin as month after month brought no change. The medical situation brought with it changes to Shauna that Tony had never imagined or prepared for. He became very forgetful, unaware of everyday details, easily irritable and explosive, depressed and harsh to live with. She describes him as looking exactly the same but like there was someone else living in his body. His whole personality had changed.

Shauna now found herself married to someone she didn’t really know and this was not the “person” she had expected to live the rest of her life with.

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Neither of them had foreseen this unexpected turn of events and life seemed to get harder and harder as she tried to make the best of a bad situation. Her hope was that there was some miracle cure or over-looked remedy that would put everything back to the way it was.

Months turned to years, and Tony became even harder to live with.

Shauna had taken on a new role as caretaker instead of partner and spouse. Her personal integrity kept her going as she worked, took care of the kids, took care of the house and daily-living tasks, and took care of Tony.

It can be hard to find grace to survive these trying times and even harder to thrive in such demanding and frustrating circumstances.

Sometimes life takes turns that you had not planned for and did not cause. It’s one thing to work through consequences of poor choices but even more difficult when the circumstances are not the result of your actions or your choices.

How do you find the strength and the grace to make it through and what does that even mean?

Grace is an odd word that we use mostly in church or something we say before we eat.

Grace may be understood as favor or good will, moral strength, mercy or pardon.

It’s from the Latin, “gratia,” which means pleasing quality, good will or gratitude. In a religious setting it may be understood as the unmerited favor or love of God.

In most cases it is something given not something earned. If I’ve earned the favor of others its not by grace. If I have been pardoned for an inappropriate act, it’s not like I was not guilty of the act; I was guilty but I was also freed from the penalty—by grace.

How can we apply this to Tony and Shauna’s situation and more specifically to Shauna’s struggle?

Finding grace to survive may mean finding the strength or help to make it through these difficult circumstances which, at times, seems next to impossible.

Sometimes this comes from family, friends, the community or even strangers. It may come from unexpected places or known valuable resources.

Either way, it will be something beyond Shauna.

Most people turn to God, faith or the church when the going gets tough: “To Him who can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine by the power that is at work within us.”

There is a saying that there are no atheists in fox holes—meaning in dangerous, threatening situations people turn to something bigger than themselves.

Grace to survive may mean going one small step at a time, taking each moment one moment at a time.

It may be the place where you realize you cannot do this on your own strength—your plans, your checkbook, your reputation will not be enough to get you through this.

It may be the place where you realize the reality that you are more dependent than you would like to believe.

It may mean relying on someone else’s strength when you don’t have any strength left. Faith can become a lifeline rather than a convenience.

If you or someone you know is struggling through a difficult situation, and it feels like there is no hope, talk to a pastor or a trained professional.

Chris Beam is the director of The Samaritan Counseling Center, located at 410 West St. in Bainbridge. The telephone number is 243-1633.