This week, our best friends took my wife and I out for a very pleasant day to celebrate my upcoming birthday. We had a wonderful time at the Chrysler Museum and a great lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. As the lunch progressed we began to discuss the stresses in our lives. I made a statement that I have never made before but should have. My best friend is dealing with his own progressive disease. In any case, the discussion turned to the recent stress in our lives and I stated, without reservation, that my friend and I were the reason for our wives stress! It is true! We are both long time married couples. Our wives are totally devoted to us and have made numerous sacrifices over the years, especially when you realize the demands of being a Navy wife. Now, when we are supposed to be planning our "golden years" our wives are dealing with diseases that very well may shorten our lives and drastically diminish the quality of life of us and our spouses. That potential for a shortened life span and decreased quality of life is causing extreme stress for our spouses!
There are a number of models relating to the stages of grief that one goes through relating to the a spouses death. All of them start out with denial and then progress to anger. There are a number of models for the further steps, but none of them deal directly with the stress that one experiences in this situation. Yet, here we are, two long time married couples, dealing with the same realities, but never really, truly addressing the stress that are building at an alarming rate in all of us. It is effecting the health of our spouses, their quality of life, and their future way of life.
I do not have an answer to this issue, nor do I really think there is one. I do know that honestly, openly facing the issues helps. All of us need to speak our minds, express our feelings, and let ourselves grieve. Yes, I said grieve. Unlike a sudden death of a spouse, living with a spouse that has a terminal disease is tantamount to living with constant death. Every time you look at the one you love, it must cross you mind that this may be the last kiss, the last vacation, the last holiday. That is the making for a serious case of stress overload!
Again, other than honesty, I don't have a solution. But, I do know that while I unwittingly stated the obvious, I am going to pay attention to my wife's emotions and those of my best friend and his wife. We have been friends for over 30 years, we understand each other, share life's memories, survived numerous deployments, transfers, and will survive this, together. There is strength in friendship and I am glad I have such a real wife ans such dedicated friends.