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How to help a spouse if they’ve fallen seriously ill

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Keep this in mind as you strive to live out “in sickness and in health.”

My friends Dora and Tony married 10 years ago. They are the parents of three wonderful kids. But today, the family is faced with Tony’s declining health. He requires a series of complex operations to get better. “Tony is in a lot of pain and I feel helpless”, confesses Dora. “It’s also very hard to discuss the situation with the kids without upsetting them. I myself have a difficult time watching my husband suffer without being able to help him”.

Illness is a painful experience to undergo both for the person enduring it, and for those around him. It is hard to understand unless you have been faced with a similar experience. Watching a loved one suffer without being able to soothe and comfort them is extremely difficult.

It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18)

As the care-giving spouse, don’t isolate yourself; seek help. This is especially true during the times when your spouse’s pain is at its worst. Why is it so important not to be alone when your spouse is having his or her toughest moments? Surrounding yourself with friends and family in such circumstances may seem counter-intuitive, but as neuropsychological studies demonstrate, facing pain alone only makes it more acute.

Enjoying the blessing of the sacrament of marriage even in suffering 

The same is true for the suffering spouse. If Dora knows that Tony can better cope with his pain, she will interact more easily with him and with their kids. Children can always pick up on the emotional state of their parents and will be the first to benefit in such situation.  

It is also time for the partners to recall their marriage vows and support each other in faith in the resurrected Christ, like Mary at the foot of the cross. This also involves feeling compassion and empathy with the suffering of the other.  

Marie-Noël Florant

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