By: Ronke Alao
A man steps into the hospital and walks towards the nurses' station with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. He smiles at the nurses and greets them by their first names as he walks straight into the room his wife occupies. He didn't have to check the room number to see if he was entering the right room. He's made the 'trip' so very often that he could find his way to the room if he had his eyes covered and his eyes tied behind his back. He sets the flower down by the bedside, watches his sleeping wife for a few seconds and then plants a kiss on her dry lips. His wife's eyes open and she musters every strength in her to smile as she sees her husband's eyes filled with love and feels his hand gently squeezing hers. No words were needed, she knows she is deeply loved.
We've all seen movies with scenes like this and if you are anything like me, at this point my eyes would well up with tears. Somehow, knowing a story is purely fictional never stops me from getting emotionally involved. The story of a couple who continue to love each other and perhaps even more in the face of life-threatening illness is one that never ceases to fascinate the human mind. Especially in an age where a married couple could get a divorce because one person constantly leaves the toilet seat up. So also, it is heart-wrenching to see someone in an hospital go from having regular family visits to not having anyone visit at all. I've seen this happen while I worked as a nurse in a skilled nursing facility. Patients who always had a smile on, had their family and spouse visit often, then all of a sudden, no one visits anymore.
Caring for a loved one who is ill can be emotionally draining. I experienced this first hand when my mom had a stroke and lost her ability to speak. It was hard to watch my energetic mom not be as energetic as she used to be but my dad always inspired me. He took great care of my mom and just watching them taught me the importance of personal touch. Those who are caregivers to their spouse can suffer frustrations, feelings of guilty and anger.
Nothing tests true love like having a spouse who Is battling illness.
If you are caring for a spouse or loved one, there are a few tips that can help you deal with unhealthy emotions.
#1- Find a positive outlet by talking to someone. It is important to find someone whom you can reveal your emotions to. Dealing with frustrations, anger and uncertainty is too much to bottle up on the inside of you. If you won't be weighed down by it all, you would need to find an outlet where you can freely express yourself. Praying works wonders but talking to a human being in addition to praying is also very helpful. It could be a trusted friend, your spiritual leader or a support group with people who are living through similar circumstances.
#2- You can't do it all by yourself. Realize that you need help. It doesn't matter whether you're a nurse or medical professional, none of us were equipped to handle all that caring full time for a loved one brings. Allow other people help you when they offer to. It's true, no one will get things done the way you do but to be your best, you need to take a break sometimes. You need to step back every once in a while to get "recharged" and feel rejuvenated. This is what helps you become not just a better caregiver but a more loving one.
#3- A touch says everything. Remember that a smile or a loving touch can go a long way for both you and your spouse. Depending on what the medical condition is, I believe in most cases, couples in this position can still find ways to remain intimate. Also, just because your spouse is not as strong and vibrant like he once was doesn't mean he wouldn't long for things to remain as normal as possible. As much of your normal routine that can still be continued should be if the doctor confirms it doesn't pose any danger.
Loving one's spouse in sickness can be a challenging experience but a couple can use the situation to their own advantage (by getting even closer) rather than let it create a distance between them.
What Did You Think?
Do you have stories to share about couples that have fought for their marriage through sickness and health?
We'd love to hear, share them with us by commenting below.
Ronke Alao left her family and fiance behind to relocate to the United States from Nigeria. She got her license as a practical nurse in July, 2010 and faced the challenges of dealing with a long distance relationship. Having being through moments of uncertainty and doubt, she is able to bring compassion and understanding to the table when she speaks to others. Ronke is happily married to the man of her dreams. Her vision for Everywoman’s Heart is to help women have better relationships with their spouse and others so they can live a fulfilling and rich life.