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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 221 - Separation Anxiety

We're linked with Messy Marriage's From Messes To Messages - do drop by for some great marriage resources.

When we think of separation anxiety, the usual mental image that comes to mind is of a pet or a child. But if you're a caregiver with a permanently homebound spouse, you may have already seen some of the signs.

Being homebound can be a lonely existence. You, the caregiver, are likely still in the workforce, and friends tend to drop away; they may have visited in the early days of the homebound state, but eventually they just don't know what to say.

So you may find your husband or wife making small talk when you're leaving for work, asking questions that seem almost silly; the talk is subconsciously intended to delay your departure for just a few minutes more.

And you may find that on your return, there is someone looking out through the window and he of she has been there for awhile. Waiting.

Weekends may start well, but around late Sunday your mate will become silent and glum, looking forward to another lonely week.

What can you do? Staying home's not an option for most, and it's not really a great idea. Separation anxiety's an illness; you don't get anywhere by treating the symptoms.

Here are some suggestions. Not all will work in every case, but hopefully everyone reading this will find one that seems helpful.

  • Encourage activity - if your spouse has an interest in anything, be as supportive as you can. Some interests aren't practical, but if your husband still wants to build that brick patio you know he'll never finish...why not make it possible for him to lay at least a ew bricks a day? Yes, your yard will have that 'under construction' look, but it may be worth it to keep him from getting entangled in your coattails.
  • Encourage engagement - there are internet forums that cater to almost every interest, and when personal visits come few and far between, the internet can be at least a partial substitute. And encourage on-line gaming (such as Sci-Fi role-playing) if your mate has even the slightest inclination.
  • Keep your mate informed - if you're going to be late because you ran into a friend at Wal-Mart on your way home from work, don't leave your wife hanging. Let her know when you expect to be back.
  • Do TV church - if your mate can't attend services, set aside a time on Sunday to watch serves on TV that you both enjoy, and talk about them afterwards.
  • Make the most of your time together - distancing is a very real part of terminal illness. It's natural, and to some degree unavoidable, as you, the caregiving spouse, are preparing for that final goodbye...and your mate drifts into an unwanted world of pain and fatigue. But the time you spend together...make it fun. You see, the biggest factor in separation anxiety among the terminally ill is not the immediate loneliness and isolation. It's the loss of a life in which the patient felt valued, felt like a contributor. If you can make your terminally ill husband or wife know that they're as important to you as you are to them, you've done a lot to take care of the problem - at the root.
What do you think? What did I leave out?

Much to my surprise, I decided to participate in a '31 Days' blogging exercise; rather than interrupt the flow of this post, I have another blog established, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Malcolm X) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update...he's received a lot of support, but STILL NEEDS HELP TO BE SAVED.


He's up to nearly 200,000 signatures, but the local authorities are dragging their feet. They think that we'll give up and go away. We won't.

If you have a mment, I'd like to ask you to visit Change.org to consider a petition to free a 'death row dog' who has been separated from his family for ten months over a misunderstanding. Marley was saved from Afghanistan by a US serviceman; please help make sure this story doesn't end in needless tragedy! Marley's gotten a lot of support...but he still needs our help.

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

Below are my recent releases on Kindle -please excuse their presence in the body of the blog. I haven't the energy to get them up as 'buttons' in the sidebar. You can click on the covers to go to the Amazon links.


  1. Great post, Andrew!
    Jennifer Dukes Lee had a post tonight and it made me think of our conversations of Charlotte and Wilbur. Hope you have time to read it.
    This post made me think a lot.

  2. I always appreciate the perspective and wisdom you offer us here, Andrew. I would have no idea how either party might feel in these kinds of circumstances, but would never think that this situation couldn't be something I would face one day. So it's great to know that I have your rich resource here to reflect upon and leave better prepared for those challenges. Hugs to you, my friend!

  3. My husband didn't go through separation anxiety very often. When he had his stroke he could no longer be left at home alone so I had to quit my job and stay with him all the time. We have two grandkids that live with us so they would be with him if I had to leave for awhile. He didn't like for me to leave though. I think he feared I wouldn't come back. But I always did.

  4. WOW, Andrew...you hit a nail on the head...as you often do with your words!!! Separation anxiety? I never thought about that...it's not that he is being "ugly" to me necessarily, though at times he does; but, he is "home" and I am going off "doing my thing"...most times it's HIS choice NOT to go with me to do anything unless it's a family visit or celebration. He does have a couple of places he goes, but not many. And, as for that "meaningless" project? Yes, he does have one of those that I totally DO NOT understand; but has to do with "keeping up with his high school alumni and family and friends" by keeping a card file on each person...and some how his walking ties into it all?!

    Thank you so much for opening my eyes, again, on something that I can understand better and perhaps change MY reactions to.

    Always, prayers for you and Barb {{HUGS}}

  5. Andrew you've provided some great insight here. I can only imagine how hard it is to be home bound just having done it a few times with broken bones, and I know how hard it was to leave the house when we were keeping my Mom. Such wisdom you've shared to help others.