When All Else Fails

There are times when we struggle to help loved ones with a mental disorder that is so very hard to get under control that it even leaves the mental health professionals in a quandary. Both our loved one and we become worn down and weary. Finally, at our wits end, we pray,” Dear heavenly Father, please bless me and guide me for I don’t know what else to do!”It is in such times that our prayer may be answered by discovering that our very presence is invaluable. Though we may not be able to “fix” our loved one we can hold them in a loving nonjudgmental relationship in which we do not give up on or abandon them. Even if we come to the point that we have to ask for them to be committed to an inpatient facility and they resultantly lash out at us, we hang in there with them. Even if we have to live apart from them for our own wellbeing, we continue not to give up on them though at times they may think that we have. We, and they, can learn that a loving and encouraging presence can transcend geographical distance. Some students of the psyche describe this as being a “holding container” in which our disturbed loved one can struggle with his or her mental disorder and its spin offs.

We may be wise to focus on learning how our presence, both from up close and from afar, affects them and what about us aggravates their situation and what about it is helpful. Clergy call this the ministry of presence. It involves an emotional presence just as much as a physical presence. 

Learning as much as we can about the disorder can be very helpful in this process. Support groups even for loved ones of patients with specific diagnoses are available in many communities.  

By: Jim Rentz

DMin, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Army Chaplain Vietnam