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When a Spouse is Terminally Ill

When you are looking into the eyes of your loved one declaring that you will love, honor, and obey each other until death, you really don’t know the full significance of those few words. You actually are vowing to take care of one another for the remainder of your lives. What happens when one spouse becomes terminally ill? Just hearing those words is devastating whether you have been together a year or thirty years.

In most marriages or relationships, both partners provide care for the other. One may handle household chores while the other, financial things. The couple typically settles into a routine to accomplish all these necessary tasks. When one becomes ill however, the other must handle all of the responsibilities, plus take care of the sick partner. This disruption of normal routines can be very stressful.

When a married person is diagnosed as terminally ill, their spouse often becomes the primary caregiver, taking on different roles as nurse, counselor, and personal assistant. The job of caring for a dying spouse can become very exhausting physically, as well as mentally. It would be very wise for the caregiver to accept any help offered by friends or family. This will allow the healthy spouse time to unwind and seek other outlets for their stress and anxiety.

After receiving a terminal diagnosis, most people will share the news with family and close friends. Many people will offer their help and well wishes. Sometimes, the ill patient will reunite with loved ones who have been distant. Sometimes though, the ill person may prefer the company of a small circle of loved ones. It is very important that the wishes and preferences of the ill one be respected and honored when allowing people to visit.

When faced with a terminal illness, it is urgent that legal business is handled. Having a legally binding document in place is the only way the terminal patient can assure that their end of life care will be given as they want.

It is not easy knowing you are going to lose someone you love. This time will be filled with many emotions. It is extremely important that the couple make and take time to express their love for one another. This is also the time to allow each other to express themselves. Allow the patient to voice anything they feel they need to say. Just letting the ill person know that they are truly loved can give them a sense of peace about death. Allow the dying spouse an opportunity to express their feelings and love to the surviving spouse. This expression of love can help both partners accept the reality of death.

Written by Pat Gibson for