When someone you love becomes terminally ill or injured, your womanly instinct takes over. You first sort, then later administer, their medications, make notes at the doctor’s office, provide personal care, arrange for therapy sessions, provide updates to friends and family members, and drive them to and from appointments. And this is in addition to the regular duties you may have taken on in your relationship! (Things like cleaning, doing the laundry and cooking.) A terminal illness or injury is all consuming.
You enter a war zone whether you want to be there or not. (Learn more and heal faster with the Navigating Loss Program. Only $49 for the book and video series!)
Here’s a little snippet of what this looked like in my life: After a few weeks in the hospital, after my husband’s first stroke, he was sent home where he received three types of therapy four days a week, and saw four physicians on a monthly basis. His stroke became my full time job before he was even out of the neuro ICU.
But the most labor intensive part was that, the stroke left him unable to swallow correctly, so everything that entered his mouth had to be either be blended to a pulp or thickened to a pulp because of his dysphasia. I tried to cheat at first because it was so labor intensive. I’m a whole foods cook and I make almost everything from scratch so at first I bought organic baby food. The look on his face when he saw those little jars on the kitchen counter made me to say, “They’re for the food bank honey.” And I swept them all up into a bag and delivered to the food bank. Next, I tried putting everything I’d made for dinner into the blender. He looked at our son’s plate and then at the blob on his and he pushed his plate away. I said, “Don’t you want to eat?” and he shook his head slowly, looked at his plate of pulverized glop and said, “Would you?”
When I told my neighbor this story she told the other neighbors and two days later, when we came home from yet another doctor’s appointment, there were 4 blenders on my front porch, each wearing a piece of masking tape with the owner’s name. That solved the blender problem for about the next two months but preparing all his food was very time-consuming. I also had to closely monitor everything that went into his mouth because the stroke had taken away his ability to understand that he couldn’t swallow correctly. It was a joyful day when he passed his swallowing test and the blenders were returned to their rightful owners.
As my husband recovered—my health fell. I gained weight, my blood-pressure shot up, I stopped exercising or seeing friends because I was afraid to leave him alone for any length of time. Our son was 15 and very active in band, scouts, science competitions, and youth group. Since my husband wasn’t allowed to drive, I was the chauf- feur, too. I was utterly overwhelmed. My life was a mess. My emotions were a wreck and my health was rapidly slipping.
If any of this sounds too familiar to you, it might be a good time to check in with how you’re taking care of yourself now that you’re alone. Are you getting enough rest? Are you preparing and eating healthy, nutritious food? Are you exercising?
I invite you to make YOU the most important thing in the world right now so that you do the things you need to do to stay healthy. Grief is hard enough without getting sick!