In Sickness: Part 2
In the previous post, I wrote about things that the spouse with the medical diagnosis can do to acknowledge and stay connected to the caregiver. It’s not easy. I find myself smothering Chris. I want all of his time. I want flowers and thoughtfulness. I want date nights and family fun nights. I want to build a business together and decorate the house and so much more. But notice that I said, “I want.” And in marriage, it’s about what we want. So let me share a few things that I have learned on this journey.
Don’t project “what you would do” onto them. “If I were you, I’d…” Don’t say it. You are not them. You can’t tell them how to process their illness, how to define this season of their life, how to create a new normal. At most this is a shared journey but it is not your journey.
Ask for what you need. Your spouse is probably not intentionally trying to ignore you. They are trying to manage doctor’s appointments, poking, prodding, research, emotions, fears and so much more. Do not expect them to be able to read your thoughts right now. Even the most thoughtful spouse will be a little off at a time like this. Give them grace and space but also give them words. Ask for what you need from them. Yes, you will feel like a selfish asshole asking for a date night when your spouse is dealing with cancer. But you have needs too and being a caregiver can be extremely lonely at times. Talking with your spouse ensures that your needs are not overlooked.
Seek help from others when needed. I believe I am Wonder Woman. I’m serious. I know I am a superhero. But even superheroes get tired. Ask for help when you need it. People offer all the time and you will say “no, we’re good.” YOU ARE NOT GOOD! You need help. Ask for it.
Be flexible. The chores you did before may become his. His chores may become yours. You may have to outsource a few things or even let some go, but it’s ok. There are no rules other than doing what is best for your family.
“Drink first then pour.” My distant cousin Jona’ told me that line while at my grandmother’s funeral. I must have looked exhausted, sad, and probably a little dishevelled since I fell getting into the car on the way to the family dinner. Jona’ is younger than I am and is a widow. She understood how I felt without me saying a word. She looked me dead in my eyes and said: “drink first then pour.” As women, we give to the world before we give to ourselves. That is wrong and backward as hell. How are you pouring into others from an empty vessel? You can’t. Fill yourself up first so you can have the energy to give to your family. So take time for self-care. Go out with your friends. Take trips. Drink the wine. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh!