This Is the Silent Ache of Caregiving for a Sick Spouse

In Sickness and Health…

For those who married healthy spouses, the loss (gradual or otherwise) of a partner, a team mate, a helper, a date-goer and sit-beside-me-at-church-er is keen and painful. We try to say it doesn’t matter. We try to believe it’s fine, that, even though life is turning out completely ‘other’, so utterly opposite of every hope, dream and desire, we’re fine. We’re not lonely or exhausted or worried.

We humble ourselves before the fact that our spouse didn’t choose this either. They long for wholeness, for strength and health. As their body betrays them, they succumb to loss just as we do, except more keenly. They bear the loss in their body. They bear it in our absence when we fulfill social obligations while they remain home. They harbor the loss in their spirit, as we head to church for our daily bread, and they try to focus long enough for a recorded message on YouTube.

Spousal caregiving has stripped me wide open. I am, by nature, a horribly selfish person. I grumble and complain. I hold elaborate pity parties for myself, replete with cake, ice cream and a thick slice of martyrdom. I frequently suggest to God that he read the wrong resume when he chose me for Len.

I’m pretty sure God smiles as He continues to renovate my heart, to turn me helpless and open into the hurting life of my husband.

There are moments when I feel single. Where I long for the moments I see in the lives of others… Sunday hikes and camping trips and flights to sunny climes. When I pause at the door, my hand resting lightly on the knob, and I quickly re-evaluate the importance of wherever it is I’m heading… work, church, small group, family.

There are moments when I choose married. Daily, in fact. I choose to carve out a quiet space of rest for my husband instead of enjoying time with friends. I set aside housework for silence, because Netflix and the vacuum would wake him, and sleep is a precious commodity. I cancel plans with gracious friends, and learn to build help into our lives.

Even as I write this, I know I’m not alone. I know there is someone reading this, her heart in puddles, wondering why it must be so. I know there is a weary warrior pausing before these words, hearing me as only she can.

We are not alone, friends. We aren’t. We may hesitate in the deep to voice this admission, but I see you. I hear your heart in this particular hurt. I know the choices you make, and the loneliness often inherent in those choices.

Keep choosing. Keep turning that knob to leave the house, and to return. Create margin. Create haven. Be near. Allow yourself moments to honor what life might have been… allow the dreams that have slipped away to return. Savor them briefly, like a rich swallow of hot cocoa, but hold them lightly. And then carry on.

And remember, above all, the One who turns you helpless and open into the hurting life of your spouse. I know you feel exhausted, ill-equipped. Do it anyway. His hands are on your shoulders… let Him turn you towards love. And home.


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