Relationship Connection: My wife is dying and I’m a mess

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Question

My 74-year-old wife has recently been diagnosed with cancer that has spread. She is receiving a lot of medical attention and care. Unfortunately, it seems that this disease will ultimately take her life. 

My wife is a brave and courageous woman. She is also loved and respected by three generations. The thing is, I’m not brave, and I’m having trouble with the flood of thoughts and feelings involved in trying to get a handle on the situation. Basically, I’m a mess. Can you tell me how I can best help my wife to go through this part of her life? I don’t know what to do.

Answer

I’m grateful you’re reaching out and asking for support during this unimaginably difficult time in your life. You might not think you’re a brave man; however, admitting that you don’t feel brave and that you don’t know what to do might be one of the bravest things you can do at this time. Your wife needs you now more than ever.

First of all, it’s completely normal to experience a flood of thoughts and feelings when you’re losing your spouse. It’s like you’re watching your life flash before your eyes but in slow motion. You’re experiencing the overwhelming feelings that come when we face something we don’t want to happen and are completely powerless to stop it. You’re not weak or broken for experiencing this flooding. It’s evidence of how important she is to you.

Even though this flooding may be normal, it still gets in the way of you being there for your wife. Your wife has a wonderful community of support from friends, family and medical professionals. It’s time to build your community of support so you can support her. 

A crisis is an opportunity for us to be our best selves. If you don’t know how to manage the feelings you’re experiencing, this is the time to seek additional support. There are grief and loss groups you can attend where you can get support and community from others who know exactly what you’re feeling.

This is a good time to seek individual professional counseling to better understand how to organize your experience so you can better show up for your wife. You might feel uncomfortable doing these things, but bravery is simply showing up when you’re afraid

This is also an important time to open up to your children and other close family members about your own emotional struggles. You may believe that you’re supposed to maintain a stoic disposition at a time like this to hold everyone else together. However, this is an important time to let them be there for you so you can be there for your wife.

They may believe you’re doing better than you really are. So when you’re feeling low and depleted, ask if someone can sit with you and let them hear what this is like for you. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to let these sweet and tender emotions flow through you to your dear wife. She needs to know how much you love her, how her life has blessed you and how you want to be there for her during this time. Your commitment to keep showing up every day with your presence, your voice, your tears, your awareness and your touch will give your wife the comfort and security of knowing that she doesn’t have to do this alone. 

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

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