How can I help with My husband? he will die
When I met my man, we were both fit. We ate as healthily as possible and even exercised together. Recently his health started deteriorating and we discovered he has a terminal illness. He’s upbeat and assures me he’ll beat this disease.
But in all honesty, I can see he’s not the same and the doctor disclosed to me that he might not have long to live. I’m really shattered and am always in tears when he’s not watching. His illness is taking a toll on me. He can’t do the things he used to do for himself and they’re now my responsibility. I’m not taking it well emotionally. Can you give me advice on how to cope? DEVASTATED WIFE
MOVE! EXPERT ADVICE
What an unfortunate yet privileged position to be in – being such an important part of someone’s journey at such a lifedefining moment of their life. Being in love with a terminally ill person is heartbreaking, yet it puts you in a uniquely honourable position.
Learning that your partner is terminally ill far into your relationship undoubtedly is devastating. Even though we’re all aware of the fragility of our lives, no one can ever be prepared for it. The whole experience is indeed frustrating, disempowering, energy-sapping, hopeless and eventually sickening.
We’ve never been in your shoes and therefore can’t express enough sympathy at what you’re going through. We can only imagine the trauma. While providing the necessary support for your husband, it’s important to ensure you’re not only in the right frame of mind but strong enough to deal with him in his weak state. This means that if you’ve made a conscious decision to be with him through the process, you need to be absolutely committed all the way. He’ll need you to be strong for him.
Committing fully to the process means you’re prepared to shoulder responsibilities you never thought you’d have to manage, including providing hands-on care for him. To suddenly play the role of his cheerleader and primary caregiver, as well as counsellor, nurse and personal assistant, without due regard for yourself and your hopes is an incredibly unselfish task. But it is also a privilege because you are building precious memories that will be unique to you and that no one will be able to take away from you.
However, beyond the help you provide and the palliative care from a hospice, you may need to ask for assistance from family members. Caring for a dying spouse can be exhausting. Both of you will benefit from the break. It’ll give you time to unwind, and your man can be relieved of the guilt that’s generally felt when you are dependent on others to meet your everyday needs.
We recommend that you get him the palliative care a hospice can provide. You need to do this knowing that you are ill-equipped, both professionally and emotionally, to deal with a terminally ill person.
According to the World Health Organization, “Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illness through the prevention and relief of suffering, the early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual”.
You may also want to play an active role in reuniting him with loved ones he hasn’t seen in a while. We imagine this is the time he needs all the love and care he can get, especially from people who have known him from a long time. There may even be those who still need to go through some form of forgiveness and reconciliation with him.
That said, he may prefer to narrow his circle as time goes on to just few individuals. When time is limited, it’s important that his wishes and preferences be honoured. Always keep in mind that, important as you may be in his life at this point, it’s not about you anymore. It’s all about him, and the care you help provide.
To be of proper service to him you must have, or develop, the self-awareness not to make his illness about you. At times when you don’t know what to say, just listen. His terminal illness doesn’t suddenly require you to solve his problems with your words. We know you’re sad, afraid, confused and generally don’t know what to say. That’s okay! Say less and listen more.
Furthermore, although all adults should have wills, many don’t. If your husband does not have a will, encourage him to create one. You will want peace of mind when he passes on. Remember, your love and compassion can prolong his life. You have an opportunity to be the angel he most needs on this planet. You have the chance to give faith to a person who’s probably lost it. It certainly won’t be easy, but we encourage you to step up and do it.