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Coping With Daily Losses

Posted on Feb 20, 2013

Dealing with life's daily interruptions are grueling when you have a sick child. Especially when "daily interruptions" can mean trips to the ER.

Anyone who has been through the journey of caring for a child with cancer can attest to the fact that a family experiences many levels of loss along the way.  The process of loss does not begin with the death of a child.  In fact, personal losses for parents and siblings begin to pile up early, from the beginning of therapy to the final outcome of treatment. 

From the first day of treatment, daily life is irrevocably changed by the demands of caring for the sick child, and everyone in the house feels the pain.  Siblings experience a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety, based primarily on the absence of their sick sibling and one, or possibly both parents, due to long hospital stays, or late night departures to the emergency room when chemo’s side-effects kick in, demanding treatment.   Parents lose individual time with the healthy siblings, family dinners get skipped, school and special occasions get missed.   It’s all part and parcel of the great amount of time that has to be devoted to the sick child, and the sacrifices that come with this reality.

Siblings are acutely aware of the absence of their parents.  What we wanted most to avoid was becoming isolated from our healthy children.  Making sure they were involved in the care of their sister was an important way to stem the feeling of loss and isolation, and keep everyone together.  How much that helped Lainie’s two sisters I can’t be sure, but at least we were trying to keep our family normal, in an otherwise abnormal situation.

While it’s important to focus on the healthy kids and how they are feeling, keeping a close eye on your spouse and their feelings is of equal or possibly greater importance.  Given the difficulties and time constraints caring for a sick child can put on a relationship, it’s easy to grow apart.  Most of the time, mom is one place, dad is another.  I know this was a reality in our experience, the loss of personal time together in just about every aspect.   The challenge was to try and restore some of the intimacy and private moments, while still dealing with the constant pressure of caring for your family.

Ultimately, depending on the progression of the disease, there will be lesser, or greater losses the family will experience.  Communicating with your spouse and healthy kids on how just everyone is feeling, and trying to keep everyone close, both emotionally and physically, will help mitigate some of the loss that caring for a sick child can bring. 

Stathi Afendoulis

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