Sickness doesn’t just affect the individual that is sick, it disrupts their entire support system. It’s easy to miss the impact on friends and family indirectly affected by illness.
My family has participated fully in my health journey. It saddens me that this isn’t every patient’s experience, because I can’t imagine going through this alone.
When a child/teen is sick, the attention shifts from the siblings to the one struggling. This change in family dynamics is out of necessity, however, it can cause the siblings to feel neglected or like their needs are less important. Siblings may stop bringing their day-to-day troubles or frustration to light since their problems feel “less dire” than the rest of the issues the family is facing. There is often fear or anxiety about coming home and getting bad news.
The lives of the parents or caregivers of a sick person also change drastically. Priorities change, social activities are curtailed, and caretakers spend less time with their spouses. There is less family time together, as parents take turns being with the one who is sick. They sleep less, exercise less, and things like family dinners and family vacations don’t happen, or happen in a disjointed way. For some, the color disappears from their world and when good things happen it’s hard to celebrate, smile, or laugh because they remember they have a sick child in pain they can’t help.
The vibe changes and sometimes that happens over time and sometimes that happens abruptly to a support system.
The effects of chronic illness are cascading…
For those of you who haven’t had to experience this firsthand or secondhand, I pray you never will. Remember to be extra empathetic to those who do. The compassion of others (sometimes strangers) is one thing that helped my support system get through some of the toughest times.