juggling fire

Bob and AnnieIn general, spousal care is very challenging and brings a very complex set of emotions to bear. Sometimes when my wife Annie refused to cooperate, which she did at times, I found myself feeling frustrated, ticked off a bit, and sad, all at the same time. Those were all very normal feelings and directly linked to each other. As a caregiver, my emotions or feelings were a reflection of the level of care I was trying to provide for her. What my emotions were saying is that, I love you, and I’m trying to do the best I can under some difficult circumstances. “Please help me, so I can help you.” And of course, I was often singing to the choir as Annie didn’t care what I was feeling at that moment in time. It becomes a stalemate. I simply didn’t understand. Sometimes I would get upset, frustrated and slowly walk into the kitchen. But as always, the words “Empathy” and “Compassion” creeped into the conversation that was going on in my mind, which are crucial words that enhances and helps promote quality care giving.

I would peek around the corner from the kitchen to the living room and see her lying in her hospital bed, helplessly losing a little more ground to the cancer each day, and it just made me want to cry—and at that point, which was earlier on in the cancer, I knew I could, and I must do better. I’d immediately go to her bedside, give her a kiss and tell her how much I loved her. She responded well to my emotional turnaround, and in her own loving way let me know that “I wasn’t understanding what she was going through.” She was spot-on. I didn’t have a clue as to the emotional toll the cancer was having on her. I learned something during those early days, “never assume I knew how she was feeling emotionally.” Annie was going through a living hell, she had a death sentence from a nasty cancer and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

In my humble opinion, I believe the level of spousal care is driven by our love for our spouse, compassion, and our empathy. Of course, there is so much more to spousal care giving than what I just said, but love, compassion, and empathy are three essential ingredients that lay the foundation for quality spousal care and in many ways is the glue that binds spouses together during the difficult times.

The first two months I just spoke of, became a testament to the power of love. Many of us enter the world of being a spousal caregiver without any knowledge or concept of what we’re getting into. We’re simply caregivers in training. It can be very complicated, and will offer up challenges that can drive our emotions to a level that we’ve not seen before. Anger, frustration, trying and understanding the loved ones needs, are all a part of the initial processing of information and emotions, and quite normal. Sometimes, I felt like I was driving in my car at a high rate of speed and slowly losing control of the vehicle. Instinctively, I knew if I didn’t fight back to regain control of my vehicle I was going to crash–Welcome, “To The World Of Spousal Care.”

Are you a current or former spousal caregiver? Join our free, private online peer support group with Bob on Tuesdays at 10pm est.

Written by Bob Harrison
Bob Harrison was raised in the heart of the Redwoods in the far northwest comer of northern California. The little town of Crescent City, California was located near some of the world’s tallest trees, with the west shoreline being the Pacific Ocean. Bob spent most of his time fishing the two local rivers where some of the finest Steelhead and Salmon fishing is located. He was also well known up and down the north coast as an avid motorcycle racer, winning several hundred trophies, and one Oregon State title. Bob graduated from Del Norte High School with the class of 1966, then spent a one year stint at the College of the Redwoods, before having a strong sense of patriotism and joining the United States Air Force. After three years of service, Bob met Annie, the love of his life, and they got married in England in 1972. Bob’s love of country pushed him on to what turned out to be a very successful career, retiring in 1991. Bob’s last military assignment was Wichita, Kansas, a place he and Annie decided to call home. Together they developed and ran two very successful antique businesses until the stranger knocked on their door and changed their lives forever; “Because of Annie.”

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