Helping a Spouse (or Significant Other/Partner) in Crisis
It really is a call on a random afternoon that will immediately alter your life. My husband got that call a few months ago. His dad had been in a serious car accident.
I had gotten a similar call five years earlier. I remember trying to absorb what the hospital staff was saying. My mother had been in an accident. She had been hit by a car. I needed to come right away.
When I got to the hospital, my mother was alert but it was unclear the extent of her injuries. She insisted I go to her house and walk her dogs. “I think I should stay here,” I said. But she was so insistent. I finally relented and headed to her home.
By the time I arrived back at the hospital, she had already been transferred to higher level trauma hospital. When I got there, one of those grief counselors greeted me at the door. That’s when you know it’s serious.
The whole experience is kind of a blur now. Internal bleeding. Surgeries. A broken neck. Broken vertebrae. A broken pelvis. A broken leg. She spent weeks in the hospital, followed by a stay in a rehab center.
I remember being overwhelmed by the situation but with a clear mission. I visited my mother, talked to the doctors, followed her care and kept her life going. That meant paying her bills, communicating with her tenant and taking care of her dogs. And now five years later, she is a healthy, passionate 72 year old who travels, works part time and is still obsessed with her adorable dogs.
But the mission isn’t so clear when it’s not your parent. When my husband got the call about his dad – he was told to fly to New Jersey immediately. His dad was given a 50/50 chance of making it through the night because of extensive internal injuries. Apparently, he was pulling out onto a main road and just did not see a truck coming.
Thankfully, my father-in-law made it through that night but the next month was an emotional roller coaster. Every day seemed to bring news of another complication. My husband was understandably a mess. His dad was never quite out of the woods. And this time, I felt helpless.
I am more of a doer, than someone who just sits around hoping for the best. But there wasn’t much more I could really do. My husband (along with his mother and siblings) was immersed in the task of helping his dad in the ICU. I just took care of our immediate family, offered words of support and faith – and just prayed it would all work out.
It’s been almost two months since the accident. My father-in-law spent more than a month in intensive care and then a stint in rehab. He still has a long road ahead but thankfully, there is a road. And he is surrounded by people who love and support him.
And I realized that the best thing I could do for my husband was just to be there. It’s not always the most comfortable place to be because I never felt like I was doing enough. But sometimes what a person needs is someone else to listen. Someone else to have faith. Someone else to believe. Someone else to reassure that somehow they’re going to get through the darkness and the fear. And that’s what I tried to do.