By Kami Lingren
In the midst of all the challenging constants in this life with chronic illness, one thing I'm sure many of us are thankful for is the consistency a loved one's care. My husband has been the most important part of my treatment plan. He gives so much while bearing his own heavy load as we fight this illness together.
As appreciative as I am of his selfless care, it is has been quite a process figuring out how I can best support him. Those that stand beside us truly sacrifice so much, and I know their need for care is just as important as our own. Here are a few things I've learned that can hopefully be a starting point for developing ways you can support your spouse (or whoever your caretaker is).
Do we know how our partner is doing? In the midst of the daily grind of living with pain, managing treatment and just getting through simple tasks, it's easy to forget that this life is hard on them, too. Asking our partner how they are doing, as well as listening well, can go miles. Their feelings and needs are important, too, and we can find ways to communicate that.
I've also found that communicating my needs is not just part of my self-care, but it's also part of helping my husband. He wants to know how I'm doing. He would rather know if I'm having a hard day and can't prepare my meals than to find me in tears over the stove (true story).
Tangibly Show Your Appreciation
As I mentioned above, so much of our conversations can center around symptoms, doctors, treatment and care. I don't always remember to show my love and appreciation for my husband in ways that tell him "you are a rock star and I NOTICE." But he sure deserves to know!
Search for ways within your abilities that you can show your spouse your love. How does he or she best feel loved? Is it through words? A hand-written note or an e-card telling them why they're so awesome may be the thing that brightens their day. Do they feel most cared for when you tangibly do something for them? Maybe you could take a task (even a small one) off their plate to show them you care. Washing a load of laundry or scheduling a payment for a bill so they don't have to worry about it.
Encourage Their Self-Care
Illness can feel lonely and draining for us, but our caretakers are not exempt from this. Just as we need encouragement, friendship and soul care, our spouse needs an outlet for those things as well. If I’m honest, it hasn’t always been easy for me to support this since I spend a lot of time at home, but I began noticing the difference it made. I could see how refreshed and lighter his spirit was when he came home from a night with the guys or meeting up with a friend. So now I make a conscious effort to support the things outside the home that nourish and lift him!
Is your caretaker taking the time they need to refuel? Encourage them to meet up with a friend or to talk with a counselor to process the challenges of caring for a spouse. Maybe they would benefit from joining a Facebook group just for caretakers where they can safely share while connecting with others who understand. Whatever outlet you believe will give him or her a healthy dose of refreshment, encourage it!
We may think we have little to offer in the realm of caring for our spouses, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I know we have so much love and kindness to offer! Each of us understands the value of being heard. We have experienced how great it feels to have a helping hand. We know the importance of finding release and encouragement from a friend.
It may take some creativity and a whole lot of mindfulness, but we can find our own unique ways to give of ourselves within our limitations. To let our caretakers know: you are special to me and your needs are just as important as my own.
Kami is a wife, writer, sister and friend, living in the beautiful southern Oregon. Tacos, yoga pants and watching FRIENDS on repeat are a few of her favorite things. She’s been battling chronic Lyme disease for many years and has faced her share of trials and loss. She shares her pursuit of grace and healing in the midst of the deserts of life on her blog, Living Grace. Through writing, her heart and purpose are to bring light and comfort to others facing their own trials.