A Loving Wife Speaks Out
Family members experience a period of adjustment to ostomies just as ostomates do. I would like to share the process of adjustment I've undergone as a spouse, in order to encourage others. I hope other spouses or loved ones can benefit from knowing the process of change I have experienced concerning my husband Gene's ileostomy, and that they will realize any guilt or pain will pass to brighter days.
The change in our lives seems so much smaller than it did a year and a half ago when my husband had ileostomy surgery. Looking back on the process of acceptance, I can see different stages much as one experiences in bereavement:
DENIAL: For the year prior to Gene's surgery, we both denied its necessity. I tended to slip back and forth between denial and anger. I was angry that he was denying the inevitable--then I would deny it. When he actually had the operation, I tried to act like nothing had happened. I refused to look at his stoma and wanted nothing to do with the Ostomy Association. This was a mistake. Now I see there were avenues of emotional support the Association had to offer; but I was pretty stubborn.
ANGER: I had little support here in our home community as we were fairly new in the area and I got into some pretty traumatic emotional problems. I became very angry and withdrawn and had to rely on professional help to bring me around to the bargaining stage.
BARGAINING: I was angry with Gene for something he had no control over. Once I admitted that, I was willing to talk with him about compensating for his stoma. I was expecting him to somehow be a better husband to make up for "what he was putting ME through." When I could have been a staunch support for him, I was expecting HIM to consider ME. Thank goodness he had his ET nurse, the doctors, and the Ostomy Association to help him.
DEPRESSION: I finally reached the depression state and spent a lot of time sleeping. It was difficult to do housework. I started to feel guilty about not giving him more support and for being so upset with the procedure that would put an end to the dreaded ulcerative colitis he had suffered for ten years, a procedure which would probably save his life.
ACCEPTANCE: Now I am more accepting of his ileostomy. I will someday make some fancy pouch covers -- maybe a Santa Claus! Seeing how well other ostomates get along in the world has been encouraging to me. What has happened is not something terrible, but something life giving and wonderful.
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Content last revised 2004-01-14