How does your chronic illness affect your children? Please read this post to see how we dealt with the reality of this pain.
People who live with chronic illness and pain have to deal with what is put in front of them. They need to deal with the plain reality that is their body and the deficiencies they are forced to accept daily. This is not an easy proposition for a person who had dreams and hopes for a life that, at one moment in time, included a pain free existence without any need to worry about whether or not they could go to the bathroom for fear that it will be too painful to get up.
As a person who doesn’t personally suffer daily from pain, I really can’t put into words how chronic pain affects someone. All I can do is explain what I see, how I feel and observe how others are affected by living with someone who suffers daily from invisible chronic illness and pain. In my home, we have the beautiful blessing of having two very empathetic and caring young men. We’ve been told by their school teachers that if there is someone who is hurt or in pain in some way, that they are usually the first on the scene to comfort that person or classmate. They learn this empathy and caring from hopefully watching me and how I handle the daily ‘grind’ of chronic illness and pain. You see, their mother, as beautiful and lovely as she is, is forced to deal with the daily sentence of various chronic illnesses and pains that most of us would never even dream of having to deal with.
Although it is a daily thing for us, our household is not one of sadness and depression. We don’t sit around and mope that mom is sick, although I’m pretty sure we’ve all had the thoughts to do so. We live with the hope that someday, by God’s grace, my wife will be healed from pain and sickness. Until that time, we cope with the hand we’ve been dealt with expectancy that she will be healed. Again, that doesn’t mean that everything is roses, but it does mean we don’t dwell on the negative otherwise we’d be eaten up and spit out.
Having said all of that, one source of anxiety for both my wife and I, is how all of the stress of watching and knowing that their mom simply can’t do things like most people is affecting our boys. We know it does, but we simply don’t know to what extent. I mentioned earlier of how empathetic my boys are, which is fantastic, but we’re sure that it does stir them up inside to see their mom in pain or sick every day. It is hard enough to watch and cope being an adult, but kids simply don’t process things with the maturity of an adult.
We eat every meal by candle-light and every dinner together as a family. Call us old-fashioned, but a family that eats together, stays together. We talk about the events of the day, act goofy and generally have a good time. Part of what we do is say grace to give thanks for what we have. Usually, I will start and then we’ll go around the table, one by one, to say one thing we are thankful for that day. As bad as we think things are, we always have the time to thank God for the blessings we have.
We all have moments in our lives that hit us with such force as to knock the wind out of our sails. One particular dinner a few nights ago while saying grace, our youngest boy prayed something that he was thankful for that brought tears to my eyes. It felt like Chuck Norris did a round-house kick to my heart. My wife was laying on the couch because the pain was simply too unbearable to sit at the table. When it came to his turn to say something he was thankful for, with his eyes closed he prayed with his little seven year old voice,
“I’m thankful that my mommy is still alive. I’m thankful that she’s not dead.”
In his little world, watching his mommy in pain every day is something that he thinks about. He doesn’t understand that what she has won’t make her die – although many days I’m sure she feels it. He thinks about it at school as was brought to our attention one day as his teacher came upon him in class as he was sobbing. She asked him what was wrong and he said,
“I just want my mommy to be ok.”
Things like this simply break ones heart to know that chronic illness and pain isn’t only affecting the afflicted, but also those around who love the person as well. This is why it is difficult to deal with at times knowing that the one who is sick undoubtedly feels incredible guilt that they are affecting those around they love so much. The reality is that, although things are hard to deal with and perhaps inconvenient at times, we are a family. It isn’t about being ‘convenient’ or thinking selfishly about how hard done by I may feel because I can’t do what I want.
It’s about love.
It’s about grace.
It’s about family.
So, in a convoluted way, I’m thankful that we have to deal with chronic illness and pain in our family every day. It is teaching my boys about these things – grace and unconditional love – far better than I ever could by simply telling them about it. They have to live it and that will make them caring, authentic men when they grow up.