Our lives present us with many challenges which we must attempt to learn to cope with. Falling in and out of love, moving away from our parents for the first time, beginning a new job or moving to a new geographic location. We try to process these changes as best we can in conjunction with attempting to learn from our past decisions in attempts to improve the future. There is one thing I just can’t seem to wrap my head around and that is what life would be like if my beloved husband died before I do. I know we all face this dilemma but adding one living with a chronic medical issue, the thought of this can become truly frightening.
I made a deal with my husband a long time ago that the best way for me to deal with the anxiety that this brings on is for him to let me go first. It sounds like a plan, doesn’t it? It makes sense because he’s able to care for himself, drive, walk, and carry items, so he could better cope with the loss of me and still be able to live life alone.
But then there is the reality that we don’t get to pick when our time is up. I try hard not to dwell on the thought of what life would be like without my husband but when I do, I honestly can’t imagine it. He does so much every day to keep me healthy and safe. For instance, every morning, he performs PT on me, put my subluxed shoulder back into position, puts the sacrum back into position and on long trips, he pushes me in a manual wheelchair to keep my legs safe.
These are not actions I can do alone.
He opens containers for me, carries anything over five pounds (my limit living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), drives after my PT to help me keep bones from slipping back out of position, lifts and carries out to the garbage, vacuums, and many more actions that require more strength and agility than I have anymore.
How would I do all these things by myself?
The answer is, I would not be able to. So in addition to losing the man I adore I would have increased pain, faster progression of my condition and at times, more isolation. Boy, as if we need any more emotionally charged obstacles to confront. We need to prepare for this possibility in order to gain some level of confidence that we can persevere this, the worst of circumstances. This sure sounds like something to look forward to, don’t you think?
So, what can we do to live life and deal with these emotions?
- We need to try and stay as strong as we can and so we can keep caring for those we love in hopes that we have many years together in this aging process we all have to face.
- We can comfort ourselves in times of mixed emotions facing issues by reminding ourselves that those before us have had to cope with similar issues. They somehow got through this stage of loss in life, so we can do our best to cope too.
- We need to learn to listen to our hearts and emotions but also need to know when it is time to go back to living life. Dwelling on the unknown can become paralyzing if we get stuck on anxiety it brings on when we hold with these difficulties.
- We need to consider if a move to a safer, handicap accessible home is in order to make life more feasible someday to possibly be alone.
My fingers are crossed that I will be the one to go first and not have to be tested any more on how to handle life, especially alone and disabled. I have been tested over and over with two incurable conditions and coping with twenty-four surgeries on how to learn to live life with purpose and meaning back.
May life be kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.