Coping With the Sudden Disability of Your Husband
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Coping With the Sudden Disability of Your Husband

When a man becomes suddenly and permanently disabled, it seems almost incomprehensible. What does this mean? What will we do? How can we fix this? Shock is the immediate reaction when a man and his family are faced with sudden disability. As the possibilities of rehabilitation and recovery are exhausted, the permanence of disability begins to sink in, and shock is replaced by grief.

Grief over the loss of health and well-being of a husband and father is overwhelming. Who is this man now sitting before us? What is his role in the family now? How will we care for him? Who will care for us? These are questions that hit a family with rapid fire.

The disability will be there every day when the family wakes up in the morning, and it will still be there every night when the family goes to bed. There may be a moment upon waking when the world seems normal, but that quickly fades as reality asserts itself. Sorting out the details of family life and daily living becomes a full time job. Suddenly, the disability becomes the center and focus of family life.  This is the new norm for your family. Terrific heartbreak and sadness will be a roller-coaster ride as each one discovers his or her own losses and disappointments as each day unfolds.

A wife must realize her husband’s heartbreak. He is now unable to give to his family the benefits of his health and ability to provide. Considerable time will be given to physical and occupational therapy. Your role as a wife and lover may be changed to that of caregiver and nurse. Your pain is doubled as you grieve for him as well as yourself. Normalizing your relationship will take time, patience, love and counseling. Physical intimacy may be significantly impacted or may never be restored. Learning to live with a disabled husband will challenge your marriage in ways that will test your wedding vows to the fullest extent.

Some children will adjust easily while others may struggle. If their father participated frequently in their activities, it may be extremely difficult for children to understand the limitations of his disability. If the disability is disfiguring, children might be embarrassed or frightened. They may feel abandoned by their father. Children will also feel compassion and grief for their father and will suffer deeply because of their father’s pain.

Some families are undone by the hardship and challenges of a serious disability, but there are also many, with help and perseverance, who are able to rise above the circumstances. The ability to successfully redefine roles and establish new norms will significantly contribute to rebuilding the family structure. Each person in the family must come to an understanding of the limitations imposed by the disability. Understanding and learning that the disability does not define the man is the most significant lesson to learn.  The challenge of living with a disabled father or husband is an exercise in love and can strengthen and build character in each family member. Having an attitude of looking forward and depending upon those who can help will make an enormous difference in your ability to adjust and cope.

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