Question: My wife’s dad is seriously ill and in the hospital, and I’m not sure how to comfort her. If I don’t take care of her needs during this trying time, she’ll feel that I let her down. What can I do for her?


Be aware that, as a male, your natural inclination may be to "fix" the situation. But this is a circumstance you cannot fix as you would if something in the home were broken. What you can do is be available to listen when she needs to talk. It is also possible that your wife may need to be alone with her thoughts and may not want to talk. Your job is to allow that as well.

Take on more responsibility

In either case, you can also do a few things that will demonstrate your love and respect for her. During this difficult time, take over things that she would normally do. As much as possible, take care of the children, pets, household cleaning, laundry, food buying and cooking. She will not always need you to do these things, but by supporting her in this way now, you will make it much easier for her to get through this crisis.

Empathize with your wife

Do your best to empathize with your wife and understand what she is going through. Her relationship with her father is being threatened; this sets off emotional shockwaves and, depending on how serious the threat to her father’s health, robs her of her normal ability to deal with life’s demands. The closer her relationship with her father is, the greater her reaction will be to its potential loss. If the relationship with her father has been strained, the threat of losing him can reignite unresolved feelings and issues.

Be sensitive and caring

Your wife may even be in the early stages of grieving what is potentially about to be lost. Do not look upon her crisis as simply an event that takes her time and attention away from you and your lives together. Your best response is to be sensitive and caring. Your ability to do this will allow her to move through the event more easily and with less lasting disruption.

Gail Schra is a licensed counsellor and worked in the counselling department at Focus on the Family Colorado at the time of publication.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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