The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook: The Need-to-Hear Truth
book review

I’ve just been skimming through “The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook” by Diana B. Denholm and I already like the approach she takes. It’s an inventory process, something I’m a big fan of– I make inventories of clothes, personality traits, books, anything– you name it. It’s a way to get our thoughts in order. As with any stressful circumstance, caregiving necessitates the thought inventory process. Denholm structures her book on the principles of communication: things we say, want to say, shouldn’t say (unless to a friend), and need to say. She helps the reader narrow her thoughts to fit into these four categories through a series of journaling exercises and prompts. But helping facilitate communication between husband and wife is only part of the book. The rest is filled with hard-to-hear-but-I-need-to-hear truths. Like being fed up with people telling caregivers to practice “self-care.” She found that some wives don’t want to practice self-care even though they are told it’s important. Why? Feelings of guilt, cries for help… There are psychological and social reasons for wives sacrificing their health for their husband’s care.

She also mentions “anticipatory grief” as one of the many confusing emotions caregiver wives face. We wrote about living grief, as Denholm puts it, earlier this week. Anticipatory grief not only is common among caregivers but it is also a regular experience for the not-yet-caregiving population, whether we regard it as such or not. It stems from the fear of losing something or someone we care deeply about. Knowing that you will lose someone or something that you love causes the degeneration of our sense of security. It’s important to talk about those feelings because “holding them in isn’t going to help.”

I like that the book gives very practical advice for the caregiver. For the new caregiver, maybe even the seasoned one, advice on things like “emotional fine line issues” is key to direct a caregiving relationship to a healthy place.

Written by Alexandra Axel
Alexandra Axel was the first founding staff member at The Caregiver Space. As a New York native, Allie grew up people-watching and story-collecting, eventually pursuing her undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey in sociology and creative writing. At The Caregiver Space, she worked with social media, graphic design, blogging, and program development to brand and grow an online community composed of, and focused on, caregivers. From the seedlings of an idea to the thriving community that it is today, Allie was there from the beginning to support the evolution of The Caregiver Space. Allie enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, devouring books, biking, crafting, urban agriculture and imperfectly cooking. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her pup, Hen.

Related Articles

Everyone Deserves Care

Everyone Deserves Care

Gabe Winant is the author of The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America. The book "traces the...

The Caregiver’s Encyclopedia

The Caregiver’s Encyclopedia

I'd just finished Muriel Gillick's Old and Sick in America, an eye-opening 'narrative tour' of the US eldercare system and its recent history, when...

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.