My friend Barbara was a young newlywed when her mother suffered a debilitating stroke and she became a full-time caregiver. Several years later, on the verge of collapse, she went on a weekend spiritual retreat.

The leader of the retreat told her, “You cannot take on someone else’s suffering.” He said, “You can be kind. You can be supportive. You can make choices that help make your mother stay comfortable, but cannot do her suffering for her.”

That statement helped Barbara realize that she didn’t cause her mother’s stroke. She became aware that it was not within her power to reverse the damage or restore her mother to health. She learned to not let her mother’s life become her life. Barbara continued to make sure her mother had the physical help and support she needed, but she chose to spend her emotional energy on her own life.

When Barbara’s mother had the stroke they didn’t expect her to live through the night. She actually lived for 17 years! She will tell you it was an incredibly long and arduous journey, because during that time she was also working outside the home to help support her growing family.

Barbara is now in her mid-sixties and full of joy, and she may be the best travel agent in the world. She does an amazing job of arranging business travel and pleasure trips. She gathers all the pertinent information and makes meticulous plans, but once the arrangements are made, she understands that it is up to each person to experience his/her own individual journey.