Article Index

Chronic illness cannot be hidden from the family

Your family may not say much but it does see the effects of your chronic illness.

When people are newly diagnosed, there is an enthusiasm and willingness by other family members to set aside their personal agendas for a while and help the patient rise above the problem. But when the problem appears to be ongoing, it can often drive people apart.

The family members may not share the physical symptoms, but they may suffer fear, anger and grief from what has happened.

Due to the disruption caused by the illness, there could also be feelings of resentment. Often problems prior to illness can escalate.

"Words can sting, but silence breaks the heart" as Sefra Kobrin Pitzele reminds us in her book, We Are Not Alone: Learning to Live with Chronic Illness.

Spouses/other family members may avoid asking how the patient is doing for fear of having to hear about it and deal with feelings. It is important to share and acknowledge each other's feelings, exercise common courtesy, and come up with a new definition of "normal" in order to keep the relationship alive.

It is also important not to allow illness to always be at the center of attention and to build upon the common interests/experiences that hopefully still exist. Some families may benefit from counseling by professionals with an expertise in dealing with the impact/effects that chronic illness can have on the whole household.