Help for coping with stress of care giving

Published 12:06 am Friday, March 7, 2014

On Sunday, St. Mary Basilica will host a conference for caregivers at the Family Life Center, 613 Main St. in Natchez. This training program from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. is open to all interested individuals in the Miss-Lou.

There is no cost for those attending. I invite and encourage all caregivers and all people who have suffered any kind of loss in this area to attend.

Caregivers are people who take care of elderly and sick people. Some caregivers are members of the family of the person who is ill, and some are from outside the family.

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Caregivers show compassion and understanding for the sick and strive to attend to the needs and concerns of the sick.

In my role as a pastor, I meet caregivers in the homes of the sick, in nursing homes and in hospital rooms. I greatly appreciate the quality of care they give, and I observe the stress in their positions that comes from attending to the fears, wants and needs of those who are sick.

A further stress and sense of loss arises when the person for whom they are caring dies.

The conference this Sunday is aimed at providing coping skills for those who are caregivers at present and for those who anticipate becoming caregivers in the future. The leader/presenter will be the Rev. Bob Willis, an ordained Southern Baptist minister from Oklahoma City. He served as Bereavement Coordinator for Hospice of Oklahoma County from 1995 to January 2012.

He was named spiritual counselor of the year in 2008 by the Oklahoma Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Bob and his wife, Lynn, married since 1968, have two children and eight grandchildren.

Willis continues to provide grief support and counseling for families, and he facilitates grief support groups for the community. He is a frequent speaker on grief and loss issues. In November 2008, he published a book titled “Ultimate Caregiver: Words from the Cross to the Caregiver’s Heart.” In this book, he draws on the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross to give insights to caregivers.

Bob Willis sees caregivers as actually “caregrievers” and guides them to become more effective in their demanding role. He will help participants identify stress factors, develop appropriate and authentic responses and to learn skills to cope effectively in demanding situations.

He has a unique style of presentation in that he is a sculptor and uses this as part of his presentation. He said, “I can sculpt a broken heart in clay while sharing about normal responses to loss, some helpful ‘tools’ about pain and the importance of having a support system and a safe person during the journey of grief.”

It is my hope that caregivers in this area and people who have experienced grief will avail of this opportunity to draw on Willis’ insights and experience.

Willis has committed himself to a lagniappe to this community. A lagniappe is something given gratuitously or for good measure. He will present at the St. Mary Basilica weekly Grief and Loss Support Group from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Family Life Center. I invite you to attend and bring a friend. Don’t miss this opportunity.


Father David O’Connor is pastor of St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Church congregations. He is an active member of the Natchez Ministerial Alliance, is a member of the Bishop’s Presbyteral Council and chairs the Committee for Continuing Formation for Clergy in the Jackson Diocese.