If someone has a pain in his hand…one does not comfort the hand, but the sufferer.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher (1)
People with pain feel isolated and misunderstood (2).
We do need your understanding, but sometimes we just want to be heard. When we say we hurt today or complain about something (yes, we do complain), it doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. “We know there aren’t any, most of the time. So just listen and be there. That is the best thing.”
Focus on strengths.
Not only their strengths, but yours too. Use those strengths as a place to build from.
“Help me to remember all that I can do, and help us to focus less on what has been taken away by the pain. “
Treasure what you do have. Don’t focus on what is missing.
Make a list of their strengths, and post them by the mirror in the bathroom. Make a list of your strengths, and do the same thing.
Don’t treat them as helpless.
“Let me do as much as I can on my own, (unless it is a “mack truck day”) and jump in only if I really need help. I need to keep moving and doing, that is what is best for me.”
“A ‘mack truck day’ is when I feel like I’ve been run over by an 18 wheeler. Those are the days I really need your help. ”
Try to see what is needed based on their pain level right now.
“Just because I could sweep the floor and do the dishes yesterday, doesn’t mean I can do it today.” Pain may vary from day to day. What do they need today, based on how they feel in this moment?
What do YOU need?
Research shows that one fourth of the spouses of those with chronic pain have been diagnosed with depression. You, as a caregiver and a partner to a person in pain, are more likely to suffer from loneliness, reduced immunity, and poor general health.(1)
You have to consciously remember and make extra effort to take care of yourself. This means taking breaks, doing things you enjoy (even if you cannot include your spouse) and sometimes putting your needs first. Don’t let friendships and favorite activities slip away from neglect.
What do I need today, to uplift, rejuvenate, refill my cup? Make a list, and do at least one of the items on the list every single day. Don’t let yourself get exhausted and discouraged before you take a break. Put breaks and plans for fun on your calendar.
At the end of each day, savor the successes of the day, together.
Make a list of what went well. List your blessings. Say thank you, to each other, and to others who helped you get through the rough spots.
Do this daily.