BY REV DR JOHN FRAUENFELDER
Stories such as this we’ve heard many times. But let me share with you one of these stories as I recall it from a story told by Jeanne Hunt (Everyday Catholic, July 2011).
John and Carina had a great marriage and from all appearances a great future. Then their world fell apart when Carina became a paraplegic following a car accident. In the beginning it was manageable. But now, 10 years later, John is overwhelmed with her care and his own anger about the situation they are now forced to cope with on a daily basis.
John’s guilt over his feelings is as strong as his desire for them to share the life he and Carina had envisioned. Lying awake, long into the middle of the night, he wonders how long he can keep bearing up as Carina’s caregiver and husband.
The chronic illness or debilitation of a spouse can be devastating. Dealing with it can frustrating and brings stress to both partners. All too often, the healthy partner feels isolated and totally responsible for care.
It’s important to establish a support network of friends and relatives. Even though you may be handling things at this point in time, begin to enlist the help of family and friends who may assist with the care of your partner or with doctor’s appointments, or just to be there for moral support.
An important time-management issue is finding time away from your spouse.
In every marriage, it’s important to have time to do things apart from one another. This is especially true as the partner of a chronically ill spouse. Taking time to play sport, attend seminars, be with friends or even see a counsellor will make all the difference in your attitude when you are housebound with your partner.
Finally, realise that you cannot do everything. Your spouse still may be able to perform some tasks. Let your spouse know that you have needs and expectations. There will be compromise as you make some tasks easier. In the end, both of you will have a sense of accomplishment that is rewarding.
John joined a support group of spouses with similar situations at a nearby hospital. Almost immediately, the dark cloud lifted from his spirit. They encouraged him to get help and take time out for himself. He and Carina are even learning how to have a date night, wheelchair and all. But most of all, John is learning to invite God into his marriage. When John is at his weakest, God seems to hold up both John and Carina.
I don’t recall who said it, but it’s worth sharing and remembering – “the i in illness is isolation, and the crucial letters in wellness are we.”