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A Story Of Suffering

February 6, 2020

Filed in: family wellness

As I’ve been reflecting on my wellness this season, I can’t help but notice there has been a theme. It’s a theme that I have little experience with, but have been forced to acknowledge, accept, and learn from. A couple of months ago my dad was diagnosed with grade four glioblastoma (an aggressive brain tumor.) It shook my stability. Fortunately I’ve had a life thus far with happiness and not a lot of suffering. I’ve been struggling with how this has affected me and consumed me… directly impacting my wellness and perspective on… living for the most.

I’m very close to my parents. I live just down the road from them. If you’ve been around O’Brien Outpost long then you know my parents have been a major influence in my life and my heart behind what I share on families living for the most and leaving a legacy. They’ve been a great example to me of making life meaningful. My dad specifically was a significant inspiration for the flower farm and much of that story is about him. I have always known that when the time came to help my parents as they age I’d be stepping into that role. I didn’t expect it to come so soon, but my hope is to return the care to them that they have given to me.

It’s a surreal experience to see your parents suffer and what I didn’t realize before, was how much I would feel the pain too. The bond between family is designed so interestingly. The bond of love is undeniably correlated between parent and child… Such a perfectly crafted circle of life from beginning to end.

As I’ve journeyed through this process of illness with my dad it has been heavy and weary. There have been so many instances when I thought I was strong only to discover that my strength was not as mature as I had realized. I now understand how hardships can lead to many areas of life falling apart or suffering. If we’re not careful, a trial or time of suffering can shake our stability and affect us in varieties of negative ways. Of course we want to keep living for the most, but grief and stress are natural things that are going to inevitably happen and detour us. I’m learning about the grieving process and what it does to our bodies and minds. It affects us in ways that we often can’t put our finger on. I think it’s wise to discuss ways to adapt and seek stability when these serious issues arise. I believe we can help each other gain perspective and stay healthier by talking about it and being vulnerable together.

Here are a few of my reflections on how some categories of my wellness have been impacted recently. Hopefully you might find something relatable and informative. I have been feeling overwhelmed to try and express my emotions about my dad and what we’re going through online because I feel I could never share the amount of details it would take to really dive deep. However, I’ve felt called to document my life and plant the seeds of my story in hopes of connecting with others and continuing to learn and grow. For some reason I’ve felt that talking about my dad being sick is something that’s needed. Wherever you find yourself, whether suffering or not, know that life is worthwhile even in the struggles. The struggles are where we decide what we want to fight for. Our stories matter and all the parts of those stories, good and bad. Value your story. Live for the most.

Notes On Her…

FAITH- As soon as we learned of dad’s tumor I sent an email to my family’s paster. I asked him to help carry our family and aid us in this time of trial. I told him that I knew our faith would be tested and that we would appreciate support. He immediately responded with a message that read, “This will be a testing of faith, but our God is faithful.” I rested in peace. It reminded me of a sermon I had once heard where the pastor had asked us to imagine that we were a little child in a big congregation with lots of people we knew all around us. He asked us to imagine that the lights went out. He asked us to imagine we could here lots of noise and voices and commotion but one voice stood out. We could barely hear it though because it was outside the building calling our name. We recognized the voice and so we started moving towards it. The closer we got the more we recognized the familiar voice. It was our father. Our earthly father. The one who has cared for us and protected us and knows what’s good for us. It’s the voice we trust and run to. The pastor then compared the father’s voice to God’s fatherly voice and said if we’ve had any experience with God we understand that he’s good and wants what’s good for us. That he can be trusted to help us every time. That he is our father who cares. This analogy has stuck with me forever and when my pastor responded that our God is faithful I wrote that down and posted it on my wall as faithFULL. It’s a beautiful reminder to me that when I have little faith God is FULL of faith and I can go to him.

FITNESS- Funny how with all the physical resolutions this time of year, I’m falling off the bandwagon before I even get started… In fact, I feel that I usually do really well staying healthy and active and being mindful of taking care of myself, but this grief and stress has rattled my routine and made me fall into the trap of emotional eating and laziness lately. I’ve had to express to my husband a few times that I don’t have the willpower to make myself do well right now so I need him to help me and not let me get to that point. This past weekend he reminded me to get outside and resorted to dragging me out to stack wood with him because he knew the sunshine, fresh air, and physical activity would help me. Luckily, I’ve learned by this point in my marriage to express myself and tell me husband what I need and luckily he responds (most of the time; P) and takes care of me when I’m not doing good at taking care of myself. Remember to let people know when you’re not okay and ask them to keep you accountable and not let you get too far off track.

FINANCE- This experience with my dad has opened my eyes to healthcare and future planning like never before. It’s something no one ever finds glamorous to think about but it’s real life. Preparing for your future and being proactive with finances is so vital. My sister gifted me a book at Christmas that she loved by Ramit Sethi titled “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” and I’m reading up on it right now. I’m liking it a lot and trying to apply what I’m learning!

FAMILY- When each year rolls around I make new goals in each of these categories and then I update them by season and make measurable goals for each one that I can assess my progress on. I know, I know… I’m weird. These things are important to me though and this family one is probably one of the tops. I usually have a goal for my spouse, kids, and extended family. This season particularly I had written down to simply enjoy the nature of my extended family and to be there for them when needed. My mom is still working through my dad’s sickness and someone was needed to be present with my dad each day. When I see that I have “DAD” written down from 1-5 in the afternoon on my calendar everyday guess what? I can measure that I’m achieving my goal of being there for my family. I feel fulfilled that I can look at my time and see that I’m using it in line with what I value and hope to be successful at and treasure in my life. I will admit that this commitment has turned into more that I initially thought it would simply due to the nature of my dad’s illness. It’s hard to consistently be a caretaker day in and day out. I’m learning about myself and that I do better with short term goals and so it helps my spirit to know that the goal will shift with each new season. Three months is a good timeline to be able to set a goal and achieve something good within the frame of time in my opinion. Once the time is up it’s easy to see if the goal was achieved or needs updated or changed. If you’re in a position like this where caretaking is taking a lot of time and energy be sure to talk to people and take care of yourself through it because it is a unique situation that most people aren’t comfortable in and used to. Remember that there are good days and bad days and that it’s a season and it will pass. It’s a very heavy weight and very complex. Give yourself grace.

FRIENDS- I’ve always found myself guilty of being nonchalant when people ask how I’m doing or what I’ve been up to and I’ve been trying to do better at giving them a more intimate answer than fine or not much. This season of suffering has helped me to be raw and honest with people and tell them I’m not okay, were not okay, things aren’t okay. Vulnerability doesn’t mean weakness. I truly believe that inviting people to listen, especially when they offer and ask you to share your heart, is the best medicine for suffering. I’ve noticed that part of processing strife is to discuss it with loving people offering to bear the hurt with you. We all go through our individual sufferings and without friends and loved ones to care for us and hold our hand through it I’m certain it would lead to even deeper sorrow. I have felt carried and comforted by our community through this and so thankful to have friends who invest in our relationship and show up to support us. I will also add that I’ve counted it a gift to see friends of my dad’s come to visit him and spend time with him when it’s not easy. What people (me being guilty of too) don’t realize is that it doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable visiting a sick person and their family. We (meaning dad and us as a family) are so happy to have a lighthearted visitor to break up our day and chat with. It also speaks heaps of respect for those people willing to take the time and energy to do that with us. It is one of the richest rewards of friendship and community. Don’t ever be shy to ask how a sick person is doing or to go visit them. It is a touching sentiment that will be recieved with gratitude.

FAVORITE- My mission on my journal and platform has always been to spread the message to people to keep living for the most, and it’s in times like these that it hits home. I’d be lying if I said I’ve felt like I’m living for the most lately. My life has been dark and heavy and I’ve felt very interrupted and depleted. We can all agree that these kind of emotions aren’t ideal for pursuing your passion, keeping a consistent schedule, or achieving your favorite things. What I think it’s teaching me though is that our passions and favorite things seem to collide with anything we go through and fit together in ways we never saw coming. If we only allow it. I’ve struggled to figure out how to include this time of suffering into my work and my life and I’ve felt a calling to share more of my dad’s journey with this illness, but it’s hard for me. I take a lot of time to process things… enneagram 5 over here! I usually don’t like sharing my life in the moment because I value being present in the moment. I will try to share more of how we’re taking this in stride because I believe it’s such a huge part of family life and legacy. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s the foundation of what I preach about planting the seeds of your story. I’m excited to announce that I’m moderating an upcoming panel where I’ll be interviewing a few local favorites on planting the seeds of story and using a platform with purpose. I’m planning to launch my ecourse field guide related to this topic soon after in the Spring. It’s been a long time coming and it’s finally here. Thank you for being patient as I’ve worked to collect ideas for this project. I originally had the vision for this ecourse almost a year and half ago. It hasn’t left me, only took me much longer than I realized to bring it to life. Some projects come right together and others take time to evolve. I try to trust in timing and this project has only affirmed this intuition in me. It’s all about timing. I will keep you posted on all the details soon!

Goodness friends, this was a novel and a tough entry… Do you find yourself getting stuck when things get heavy? Do you have any tips with dealing with dark seasons? I’d love to hear!

Thanks for reading and keep Living For The Most!

Kasey xx

comments +

  1. Megan

    February 6th, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    Your parents are wonderful people as well as you! Keep your head up and keep the Faith. Praying for you and your sweet family. 😘

  2. Kasey O'Brien

    February 6th, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you so much for the kind words and prayers Megan! Means so much-

  3. Carol Owens

    February 6th, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I know from being mom’s caregiver the last few years of her life just how much it takes over every area of your existence. Your parents are such wonderful people, I hate that they have to go through this. Your mom was one of the first people I met when I first went to Anderson. My prayers are with you.

  4. Kasey O'Brien

    February 10th, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Carol : )

    It’s so nice to see you here! What a sweet note to find and brighten my day. Thank you for taking the time to respond and send me encouragement. I will pass the love onto Mom and Dad as well. All the very warmest!

  5. Liz Gent

    February 6th, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    Kasey,
    My dear sweet friend. As tears roll down my cheeks, I write this. I love you precious family, all of that precious family. Your kids, your husband, and anyone else that loves you knows this is one of the toughest struggles you have had to face in life. They would expect no less from you and your beautiful heart. The time you have to care for a dad that adores his children will never be lost time. God helps us grow in ways we never knew we needed to during these trials, it is His time, let Him guide you. Allow your family and friends to help, it blesses them as it blesses you. I love you, thank you for sharing your intimate life. Also thank you for being my escape when I needed it most. Love you! Liz

  6. Kasey O'Brien

    February 10th, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    I count my blessings to be granted with a special friend like you Liz. I hope you know how much your words and friendship always means to me. You are someone I have always been able to run to and for that, there is only love. I love you my dear friend. Thank you.

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