In Sickness and In Health

August 10th, 2011 by admin in Family, Grief, Relationship
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I recently learned that a couple people in my family are sick.  It’s been quite a roller coaster from learning the information, letting it sink in and then seeing how it impacts my life (now and how it will change in the future).  It’s easy to wonder what will happen in the future.  Will they get better?  How long do they have?  When should I fly home to visit again?  Is it hereditary?  What about my other family members?  What can I do?

I’ve been thinking about how illness affects relationships and plan to write more about that soon.  Right now I’m thinking about how a family member’s illness impacts you and your partner.  Even though your partner isn’t sick, if someone you care about is suffering or ill that impacts you and in some ways it might impact your relationship.

Here are a few things you can do –

  • Feel Your Feelings

If you try to ignore them they will come up later (I speak from experience!  I had a very busy week and didn’t give myself time to think or grieve and by the end of the week my back seized up and I was FORCED to pay attention).

  • Stay in the Present

You can’t know what is going to happen.  It doesn’t serve you to worry or try to guess what the future holds.

  • Take a Break

Give yourself permission to take a break from grieving or worrying and enjoy your life.  Go on a date, have some ice cream, take a walk.  It’s OK to laugh at a funny tv show or a joke.  When you are taking a break, make sure you also feel your feelings.  Don’t force yourself to go on a date if you really want to curl up and have a good cry.

  • Practice Self-care

Get plenty of rest, eat well, get some exercise.  Take good care of yourself.  Do things that will make you feel comforted or feel good.  You won’t have the energy to be supportive or caring to your family member if you aren’t caring for yourself!

  • Connect with your family

If illness is affecting a family member, share your feelings and fears and hopes with other family members.  Lean on each other, talk, cry, laugh…share warm memories.

  • Get Support

Reach out to friends, your partner, your family or a counselor or therapist.  You are not alone in this experience…other people have been there and may have insight they can offer you.  Even if someone hasn’t had a similar experience, they can offer you support and comfort.

If you are the partner of someone who has an ill family member, you can also benefit from all of the above information.  Even though your blood relative isn’t sick, you may have a relationship with your partner’s family member.  You may have your own feelings to process.  In addition to that, you probably want to be there to support your partner.  The best way for you to support your partner is to make sure you are taking care of yourself.  Here are a few things you can do for your partner.

  • Offer Support

Ask your partner what she needs or how you can support her.

  • Listen

It’s a simple word, yet it can be really hard.  Your partner may have conflicting feelings (sadness, anger, guilt, relief) and having a loving person who can listen to her is very meaningful.

  • Be Loving

This one may be obvious to you.  Doing loving things, saying loving words, showing your love – all will go a really long way right now.

  • Be Patient

We all process things at our own rate.  Just because you move through your feelings very quickly doesn’t mean she will (or should).

  • Encourage Her to Take Care of Herself

If she isn’t get enough rest or eating well, you can offer gentle reminders.  Or better yet, lead by example or even cook a meal for her.

Be gentle with yourself, each other and your relationship. Take it (and your feelings) day by day.  Remember you and your partner are on the same team and this doesn’t have to be something that comes between you.  You can lean on and support each other.

If you have experienced illness in your family, I would love to hear how you handled it.  You can leave comments on my facebook page.

One Response to “In Sickness and In Health”

  1. Julie Jeske, M.S. Says:

    […] time of year can feel unbearable if you are grieving the loss of a loved one or have a sick family member. You may find your thoughts consumed by memories of past holidays.  Or your heart may be breaking […]