October 22, 2014

Grieving for the Man He Used to Be

My husband is not the same man he used to be. Every health setback he suffers shoves this fact in my face.

It's been on my mind a lot lately.

After a good friend died seven years ago I participated in a grief counseling group with mutual friends of hers. I learned a lot from it.

One of the biggest things I learned, that I didn't already know, is that loss comes in many forms. Death isn't the only way we experience loss.

Mark is alive, but we are most definitely grieving the loss of the healthier man he used to be.

And all the changes.

One evening during his hospital stay last month I left his room to get something to eat. On my way back from the cafeteria, I started thinking about what he was like after his kidney/pancreas transplant, when we got married and when our daughter was born....

Mark completed Early Childhood Education credits at a local community college and began teaching preschool. When that path lost its luster he switched to working full time in retail. He continued holding down full-time hours after his transplanted organs failed, in spite of having to go back on dialysis.

He didn't work for the first few year we were in Washington, but only because the economy wasn't great. Sure, he started having his heart problems, but he was still doing relatively alright. He did go back to work after our son was born in 2006 and has held his job ever since, albeit at fewer and fewer hours as the years, and the complications, have passed.

Now, though? After a couple of really big and scary crises, coupled with endless less scary but still troublesome problems like infections and toe amputations, his body is weak.

With the continuing barrage of assaults on him this year, he will most likely not be returning to work. He isn't currently doing any driving, and he may not. He has lost a lot of weight and has very little muscle. While we are still taking some time to see if the latest sore will heal, there is a good chance Mark will lose his right foot.

All of his doctors are saying he should have a plastic surgeon do a muscle flap surgery to repair the large incision on his chest, but Mark is extremely nervous to have that procedure....

All of this is scaring us quite a bit. We are both afraid his body can't take much more. He feels very vulnerable right now.

And I am here watching all of this happen and missing the man I married. Oh, I miss him!

There's so much Mark's NOT doing right now. He's not working, driving, walking, sleeping in our bed or cooking.

A few days ago he asked me to defrost a whole chicken we had in the freezer so he could make chicken soup. Once it was defrosted, it took him a couple days to remember he planned to make soup and then a couple more to work up the motivation to do it. Then when we had all the ingredients necessary, it ended up that he guided me in doing a lot of it.

Mark hates it when people mess with HIS cooking.

So much has changed.

Change is a form of loss.

I'm trying hard not to focus on them, but I'm really noticing the losses.

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