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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Your Dying Spouse 302 - I'm Not Me Anymore

"Well, you know me..."

Such a common expression, and one used often to explain one's actions.

It's an expression I can never use, because illness has taken so much that I'm not sure of what me is.

My career is gone, and the avocations which used to define me are sliding out of reach. Some days, all I can do is rest, between feeding the dogs and letting them out. I watch a lot of DVDs; I read a lot. And these days concentration is so hard (along with the physical act of typing) that it's all I can do to maintain this blog.

I'm not who I was; I am who I am. And I don't know who that is.

If you're a caregiver for a terminally ill spouse, especially one who is no longer in the workforce and is simply existing between medical treatments and pain, it's something you'll have to address, because you're the only one who can help.

But how can you help? Here are some suggestions; they may not work for everyone but I'm pretty sure some may be useful.

  • First and foremost, observe. Has a driven and purposeful spouse become suddenly listless, using expressions like "It doesn't matter" and "Whatever"? If so, you can be pretty sure that there's a problem.
  • Encourage identity-building activities -  For an athlete, rugby or tennis or even golf may be out, but if there's any indication that your mate still wants to participate vicariously, try to find a way to make it happen, if only getting a cable subscription to ESPN. I'e lately been watching the Ken Burns documentary on baseball, and it's lifted my spirits far more than I might have guessed.
  • Be interested in what your husband or wife can still do -  if your spouse has enjoyed scrapbooking, make sure he or she still has the supplies to continue, and ask about it. Be involved, and interest...and, if needed, offer help.
  • Keep sex on the table - I was reluctant to include this, but being physically desirable to one's spouse is a basic need for every man and woman. You may have to modify what can be done, but that does leave open a lot of things that are sexual in nature, and that give the right message. Letting the marriage relationship become a formal 'caregiving' one, in which physical intimacy isn't encouraged, can be devastating for the patient.
  • Participate in activities that your mate still can enjoy - If your husband was an avid hunter, go to a rifle range (and perhaps let him teach you to shoot better). If your wife was restoring a n antique car, go with her to a car show, even if you're not that fired up about automobiles.
There are also some things not to do:
  • Don't schedule social events with other caregiving spouses with only a shared 'caregiver' status - it's kind of dehumanizing for the patient to be placed into a situation of making small-talk with another person on the basis of a shared terminal diagnosis.
  • Don't push the thought that there is Identity In Christ -  your spouse nows this, and if that's not currently helping, you're adding lack of faith to their other burdens.
  • If your spouse admits to feeling lost, don't try to fix it immediately by pointing out what he or she still does - the grieving process is needed; your spouse needs to grieve the loss of his or her old life. Listen first, and then gently point out some of the positives that remain. If you get pushback, stop - they're not ready to hear it. Wait  bit, and then try again.
What do you think? Are these good strategies? Can you offer some others?

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A bit of news..."Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart" has come home! Tate Publishing has gone south, and I regained the rights, so it'll soon be available in both Kindle hardcopy versions once again. In the meantime, if you absolutely can't wait (!), you can still get used copies from Amazon.

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update... been moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


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  1. Wow, Victor ... some really great, practical wisdom here that never would have dawned on most of us. Lots of solid food for thought and action. I'm off to share this post on my LinkedIn site.

    Blessings to you today ...

    1. Linda, thank you so much...and thank you for sharing this. I truly appreciate it.

      Blessings back!

  2. To me you are speaking the language of validation--such an unknown and confusing art to so many, Andrew. We all need these gestures of acknowledgement and friendship--especially from our mates. But it is never more necessary than in a situation like yours. The ongoing pain and loss of your body's abilities makes building that relationship with your spouse that much more precious! I continue to pray for you and am SO very thankful that God has kept you around to teach us more about how to walk through the valley with our mates.

    1. Beth, that's exactly right...and the word escaped me, as too many do these days. Validation is so important, and while it can arise from within, the fight to keep it going, alone, as it were, is so much harder. We really need that external support.

      I so appreciate the prayers. They are very much needed these days.

  3. Replies
    1. (((XO))) back, Susan, and waggy tails and barking.

      Thank you so much for being here.