A close friend of mine recently sent me an article about coping with the grief associated with having a loved one who is sick. In just one page the author said things that summed up what I feel, notably: “Illness and disability is a family affair. The accident or diagnosis that made our family member need care, happened to us as well. It is our accident and our diagnosis just as much as it is theirs. I have a psychosocial form of MS, just as my husband has a clinical one.” (Suzanne Mintz)
It can be hard to say this out loud when I’m not the one who struggles to walk. Dion and my Mom’s physical limitations are obvious in a way that my emotional struggle is not, though our grief over things lost is similar. In some ways Dion and I are both accustomed to the diagnosis of MS that happened in 1997, a disease that has impacted our life together ever since. In other ways we are on a constant grieving journey, one that doesn’t follow the generally accepted stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
As a person of faith, people often ask me if I believe that Dion and my Mom can be healed. The truth is, I do. This is something I have to hold lightly, because as much as I believe it to be possible, it has yet to happen. And I have to believe that though physical healing has not occurred, it is happening in other ways. This doesn’t keep me though from desperately wanting a miracle.
“Denying your grief denies your humanity” says Mintz. I acknowledge that my family’s life is different from what we once imagined it would be. The pain and sorrow associated with illness is tangible, though at the same time it has allowed us an experience of life that is deep, rich and beautiful. There is much that is not easy and quite honestly we’d like a break from the difficult stuff. I am admittedly sad.
I am learning that to cope I need to regularly acknowledge the sadness. As I deal with the waves of grief, I am more able to take a deep breath and carry on. It might seem counter-intuitive, but by dwelling here I am freed to more fully experience all that is good. And there is much good, including a huge community of people who want to make this an even bigger family affair.