Living with a Terminally Ill Spouse

It is the blackest day of your life. The doctor has told the two of you, sitting together in the office holding hands that your spouse is going to die. There are treatments available to ease the pain and suffering, maybe even lengthen their lifespan, but ultimately you need to set your affairs in order and begin to make plans for the final arrangements. It is the hardest thing you may ever have to do.

At first you will both be in denial. You will accuse your doctor of making a mistake, or seek another opinion; you simply refuse to believe it at first. You may try everything from experimental surgeries to holistic and alternative healing methods. You will curse and blame God. You can’t even begin to envision this person no longer a part of your life, but you find yourself thinking about it during work, during church, during family time. You will cry when you least expect to.

To say that these are normal responses seems trite, but it’s important to know that they are.

After the initial shock and denial, you will probably begin to bargain with God and be angry. You will feel guilty and ashamed by this, and that is normal as well. Now more than ever is the time for both of you to stay close to your faith. You may have friends and family who will tell you that it will be okay. I’m here to tell you the truth. It will not be okay, but you will get through it. There is a difference.

Spend as much time together and with family as possible. Here some family
members may pull away, as hard as it is, let them go. People deserve to grieve anyway that they can, and sometimes the only way for that to happen is for family members and friends to distance themselves for awhile. Usually this is because they don’t know what to say, and know that anything they say will not really be comforting. Keep the lines of communication open, and keep everyone updated as to the progression of the illness.

When it is appropriate, meet with your clergyman to make arraignments. Do this while your spouse is still lucid, and let them make as many of the decisions as they feel they can take. Take care of all the arraignments, and then try to have as much fun together as you can, spend the remaining time you have together celebrating life, not planning for death. Go on a planned trip, if you can. Go see the ocean or the mountains together one last time, and make the most of the time you have left.

The hardest thing to do is to stay focused, everyone will have an opinion as to how the two of you should face the inevitable, but remember, you married to spend the rest of your lives together, so do whatever it is that the two of you want to do. God bless you and keep you close.