A Loneliness

The man was speaking about
how his life had changed.
His wife had developed an illness
from which she would not recover.
In addition to her increasing physical limitations,
she could no longer respond emotionally
in the ways she had once done so naturally.
He said, “Most of our friends came through my wife.
When she became incapacitated, it was hard
to maintain those relationships.
She had been the glue.”

The man is right:
a loved one’s serious illness can strain existing friendships.
Sometimes when people don’t know what to do,
they do nothing—they stay away,
out of their discomfort with themselves
as much as with our situation.
Sometimes when people don’t know what to say,
they don’t say anything,
or they say everything other than what would be helpful to us.
Sometimes people are frightened, wondering,
“What if this were to happen to our family,
to my loved one,
to me?”
Their fear leads them to look away.
People’s responses can make caregiving a lonelier endeavor
than it already is.
They don’t wish it to be that way for us.
Often they simply don’t understand the consequences
of what they do,
or what they don’t do.
And we, at the center of all that is happening,
are all too aware of those consequences.

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