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"When a spouse feels helpless" Psychic Advice Column addresses inquiries related to: Is pain, illness and suffering punishment from God, Why does god allow so much pain and suffering, Significance of suffering in religion, Glorifying god in suffering, Encouragement when suffering & more...:


WHEN A SPOUSE FEELS HELPLESS

Question: "I am 67 years old and have multiple sclerosis. My wife and I have been very happily blessed for 48 years. I am in a wheelchair and am mostly optimistic and happy thankfully. My problem is that my wife still works and I do not. I spend a lot of time alone and really do not do much. I say my prayers in the morning but have a hard time praying throughout the day. I often feel sort of useless. I went to confession today and explained to Father. He advised me of the merits of suffering.... that is hard for me. I am very grateful to God for my marriage, but I do struggle with this problem. Do you have any advice?"

Psychic Advice:
When a spouse feels helpless, it can put strain on the sense of wellbeing in the household and in the marriage. So much of life in our society is defined by what we do, so when people can no longer do what they are used to doing - either because of illness, layoffs, retirement, etc. - they can tend to feel helpless, hopeless and useless because they have essentially lost their sense of identity.

Depending on the degree of your condition, being in a wheelchair may certainly affect what you can and cannot do, but it doesn't mean that you can't do anything. Stephen Hawking twitches his eye over the alphabet, letter by letter, to write at the rate of four words per minute. Where there is a will, there is usually a way to accomplish what you desire.

It is good that you are mostly optimistic and happy. Remember that everyone has good days and bad days, and everyone feels low at times - this is perfectly okay and normal for anyone, so let it be okay to feel down every now and again. This is part of life, and part of the spectrum of emotions that we are meant to experience as human beings. It is rare for someone to feel upbeat all of the time, and you shouldn't expect perfection from yourself.

Expectation often leads to disappointment, and it seems like you are feeling disappointed with your life and with yourself right now. It seems that you don't know what to do with yourself and with your time, and you are feeling guilty that your wife is working (and perhaps bearing the financial burden of the household) while you judge yourself for seemingly doing "not much". Guilt can destroy wellbeing and relationships, so it is essential that you come to peace and acceptance for your present situation, and that of your wife, so you can make the best of it and enjoy your time together.

There are several things you can do to feel better about yourself and your life, and to feel more useful. The first thing is that attitude really is everything, so when your wife comes home from work, it will help if you greet her with your optimistic and happy attitude as often as possible. Also, a little appreciation goes a long way, so compliment and appreciate your wife for all that she does, without poisoning it by feeling guilt or shame for all that she does for you.

There are many little ways to show appreciation and contribute to the household. You could write her little notes or emails - you can still be romantic after 48 years of marriage! Depending on the severity of your MS, you could set the table or have dinner ready when she comes home from work. You could also offer her a foot massage or rub her shoulders, or do other thoughtful, loving, giving and nurturing gestures to give back to your wife. These things will make her feel better, and they will make you feel more useful and appreciated as well, lifting a burden from both of you. (A word of warning: if your wife is used to doing everything to take care of everyone, she may have difficulty receiving, so she might resist or reject your gestures - don't let that stop you, let her get used to it.)

The other thing that you can do is to find what makes you happy. You may not be able to do some of the things that you used to enjoy, but there are still many choices available to you. There are books you could read (either in print or in audio format). You could learn a new language, sort through memorabilia, or research a family tree. If you are able to cook, you could try new recipes and greet your wife with something new and different.

Being in a wheelchair and having MS may restrict what you are able to do, but you are only as confined as you make yourself. Your imagination is unlimited by your circumstances. You could write a book, dictate a story into a digital recorder, or leave a legacy of your family history. There are many interesting and educational websites, and programs on television or radio that you could explore. There are also many enlightening programs available on DVD's, CD or MP3. There are online chat rooms and ways to connect with people who share your interests so you don't have to feel so alone. Just because you are not particularly physically active does not mean you are not doing anything - as long as your mind is active, then you are alive. It is up to you to choose to enjoy that life and to live as fully as possible.

You may have heard the saying that "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." Life offers many different types of experiences, some of which are painful, but suffering can be a choice that depends on how you respond to your situation. Suffering is more of a mental state than it is a spiritual or emotional state. Although some people suffer physically, there are those who can transcend that pain through the power of the mind.

Despite the fact that many religions may promote glorifying God in suffering, suffering does not really bring you closer to God. God does not want you to suffer; no loving parent wants their child to suffer. God wants to ease your suffering, so in your prayers, you can ask for strength, inspiration, courage, and guidance - you can also give your pain and suffering over to God. You can invite God into you, into your life and into your body to experience your world through you and with you, supporting you and loving you every moment.

The greatest prayer is gratitude, and that you can do throughout the day. Be grateful as often as you can for the blessings in your life - maybe keep a gratitude journal to write down the things that you are grateful for, including the enduring love of your wife. Gratitude raises your spirits and your energy - the more you count your blessings, the more you will feel blessed.


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