Is the Farm Terminally Ill? - Elaine Froese | Canada’s Farm Whisperer | Your go-to expert for farm families who want better communication and conflict resolution to secure a successful farm transition


Is the Farm Terminally Ill?

by | Sep 15, 2012 | Uncategorized

What do you want when your cattle farm feels like it is terminally ill?

Hope. Hope that you will find a way to make things work again.

Where is a sense of hope when you feel like your farm is dying?

As a believer, my hope is in God, that He will make a way.  As an encourager, I ask you to ponder and consider how to process and live  with depressed livestock market prices.. As a farmer, I’ve learned to separate out the things I have control over, and the things I don’t.

Glean from the people with terminal illness, and see if some of their wisdom can transfer to the farm that feels like it is terminally ill:

“Be aware that bad news is always bad news, even if it is given in a respectful, compassionate manner. No one wants to hear that they themselves or a loved one is dying.”says Dr. David Kuhl, author of What the Dying Want (Doubleday,2002)

Dr. Kuhl uses the stories of terminally ill patients. His chapter headings can be touch points for farm families who don’t want to see themselves as victims, but look for opportunities to cope with the current crush of anxiety:

  • Time and anxiety: Kuhl says “anxiety can be reduced by introducing certainty.”  Kuhl encourages a plan for care and a life review . What plans do you have to continue to take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially ?  There is no certainty when markets will improve. What certainty can your family grab hold of?  Embrace the attitude that you will seek support from one another , neighbours, and friends. Now is not the time to be fiercely independent. Communicate with your creditors. It is okay to ask for help. If you’re a grain farmer, visit your cattle farming neighbour and walk alongside.
  • Being Touched, Being in Touch. High stress sometimes causes people to physically pull away, when the best thing might be a hug or a handshake, and a phone call.
  • Speaking the Truth People have a hard time talking about imminent death. Telling my father that mom was never coming home again wasn’t easy, but it had to be done. When I met a cattle producer acquaintance she said “we’re still in denial”. How can you be truthful with your family when you aren’t even sure where the farm is at ? Start by calling a family meeting. Let everyone have a chance to speak, listen, and flow with the conversation. If you are a “family who doesn’t talk”, call someone in to help facilitate the meeting. Dr. Kuhl says visiting a dying relative is always better done “sooner rather than later”. Talking about the impact of the farm’s financial scenario is best done today, with farming and non-farming family.
  • Who am I ? You call yourself a farmer. That’s what you do for a living. Who are you as a human being?  “The farm is my husband’s life.” When a severe crisis hits, many things come into question. Tell your story to a trusted listener. Call the farm stress line.  No one chooses to have financial failures. This feeling of being blocked and stuck is a scenario that doesn’t have easy answers. Your goal is to keep your personal integrity through a very tough time. Your cash flow has been crunched, but you can choose not to compromise your character.
  • Transcendence –the spiritual dimension. One of Kuhl’s co-researchers found great comfort in the slogan “Let go and let God.” This slogan has been “described as easy to say and difficult to follow” says Dr. Kuhl.  Feelings of grief come with a deep sense of loss. Loss of income, loss of energy and hope for the future are tough things to process. Life on the farm with heat, hoppers, and hungry stock is very hard.
  • Plan to continue talking things out with family, friends and financial players. Consider your character, integrity and what really gives your  life meaning. Pray . Play with your grandchildren. Read Kuhl’s book.

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