There are few things in life more difficult than having a spouse with a terminal illness. It can seem like your dreams as a couple are rapidly shrinking.
You may feel bewildered, angry, depressed or any other number of emotions as you walk through this process.
You want to help your spouse the best you can but you also find yourself needing help, too. Just what can you do now? Here are a few thoughts.
Be Prepared for the Stages of Grief
You and your spouse will be able to navigate this challenge better if you familiarize yourselves with the stages of grief.
The five stages of grief are “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.” To experience these stages in your situation is completely normal and understandable.
Many times, couples don’t have the opportunity to work through the roller coaster that grief can be. A heart attack or an accident can lead to the death of a spouse leaving the living spouse to grieve alone.
That is one hidden blessing of a terminal illness though it’s hard to see at the time. You get time to say goodbye to each other. You get to value each other in a way many don’t realize they should.
Some spouses never get that chance. That certainly isn’t said to downplay the grief you’re feeling.
Your grief is very real. You can be there for each other better by recognizing the normal ups and downs of the grief cycle.
Control What You Can. Let Go of What You Can’t.
The day you’ll say goodbye to your spouse is out of your control. Your spouse could pass away earlier than expected or way later.
Every day, perfectly healthy people pass away unexpectedly while many experiencing a terminal illness fight on another day.
Doctors can give their best guess as to how long your spouse may have but that’s all it is: a guess.
There are some things in life that can’t be controlled. Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.
No, you can’t control how long you may with your spouse. You can control the memories you continue to build. You also can help your spouse prepare for their transition by being a loving support.
A Chance to Focus on What Really Matters
Time is a funny thing. Some spouses do a better job of loving each other in a few months than other couples who experience a lifetime together.
Your spouse and family are way more important than your career pursuits or other demands. Do as much as you can to free your schedule up so you can enjoy the company of each other more.
The truth is that, in a sense, we’re all terminal. We all have a birth date and a death date. Sadly, most people go through life not realizing what’s really important. They may falsely think life is ultimately about as successful career or making lots of money, for instance.
What really matters is that you love each other while you’re still able to do that. It’s an opportunity to hold onto your family, your faith and to prepare for the future.