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Accessible Joy: Storytelling as a Processing Tool to Cope with the Demands of Caregiving

In the spring of 2022, six caregivers, defined in the loosest of parameters as one who is providing or has provided care for an ill individual, participated in a five-week residency that utilized storytelling as a processing tool to cope with the demands of caregiving. To balance the importance of remaining grateful in the present with preserving the past, caregivers shared stories that left them open to heartache, but also to great joy and deep and meaningful ­connection. Each 75-minute session found the Community in Dialogue as caregivers opined on thought-provoking questions that directly scaffolded into the weekly Write/Share. The resulting shares improved and restored individual and relationship narratives and provided aesthetic distance to reflect on guilt, burnout, and disappointment from support systems. Inspired by love, memory, and self-discovery, caregivers shared with sincerity and empowerment, and built for themselves troves of accessible joy. At the end of the residency, caregivers self-reported not only that they were more prepared for uncertainty and able to appreciate the meaningful work they had accomplished to make their loved ones comfortable, but that they also felt their loved ones’ true essences with less effort. Each participant gained perspective and empathy, felt heard and understood, and became an integral part of what has proved to be a lasting caregiver community.