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More Responses On The Topic Of Chronic Illness And Shidduchim

These letters are in response to a letter written by a woman whose daughter is having difficulty getting dates because her father has a chronic illness. She also pointed out that there is an assumption that life in their home is depressing because of the illness. These responses deal with both issues, but how they contradict the myth of depression is particularly interesting.


 


Dear Ms. Novick,

 

I read the letter addressing the issue of shidduchim in a family with a disability and I would like to share my own experience as a disabled mother . . . but my life as a disabled person didn’t start as a mother, it starts as a very disabled child who contracted polio at the age of 2.

 

I grew up in a very happy environment. I learned at an early age that people resent unhappiness, not disability. My father and mother created a home with laughter, optimism, and acceptance, and above all with the knowledge that the Hashem is our Ruler and we have to accept our share in life. Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha, that was my father’s, z”l, motto until the end. My house was always the center of gathering. My parents, my brother, and I always had friends around, and so, my own home continues to be the gathering place. On Shabbosim, people drop by to visit, not because of chesed toward a disabled person, but because my house is fun. I love to tell stories and jokes of things that I’ve seen, experienced or read. My friends visit or call me to schmooze, some of them to uplift their own spirits; like my father, I love to make people laugh. 

 

With regard to shidduchim, I believe it is a difficult parsha for everyone, k’krias Yam Suf. People today have become increasingly judgmental, but I don’t believe that attributing the lack of potential shidduchim to a parent that is handicapped is correct. People find their zivug through their own merit and hishtadlus, and we parents have to give chizuk and stand behind our children with emunah, conviction, and a positive attitude.

 

As you wisely mentioned, depression can be, and should be treated because just like laughter and joyousness, depression can be catchy, and one member of the family can create an environment that affects the entire family.

 

As I mentioned before, I have four children, all of them sociable with wonderful personalities. Two of them are, B”H, married, and I don’t believe my disability hindered their shidduchim in any way. I have two more daughters and IY”H, and I hope when their time comes for shidduchim they are will be appreciated for all their middos and for who they are.


Betsy Greenspon


 


Dear Ann,

 

I’m a nurse. I’ve seen terrible illness in couples with no history of illness in their family and no illness where the family history is full of problems. When are we going to realize we are just not in control of these things? There’s more to a successful marriage than the fear of one partner inheriting an illness. It’s how you cope with what G-d gives you that is important. It’s loving and respecting each other.  These things make a marriage and family no matter what happens.


M.P.


 


Dear Ann,

 

Being the daughter of a handicapped mother my whole life, I’m proud to say that it has been a privilege more than a burden. My mother, although wheelchair-bound for many years has taught my siblings and me such important lessons in life. The first and most important being to serve G-d with joy. My mother has been handicapped for her whole life and struggled in so many ways to be like any other regular person. She has always had a beautiful smile on her face. She is an inspiration to my husband, my children and me.

 

My mother became ill as a child and never gave up hope. She got herself through all the years of schooling, although at times alone and in hospital beds; through, surgeries and therapies she managed to get a degree as a language specialist. She got married at 23 and had several children, all healthy B”H.

 

When I was dating, it never crossed my mind that it would be an issue for me not to find my zivug (intended). I am so proud of who my mother is and what she’s taught me. She is my strength and hero.

 

My children adore my parents and have even learned to be sensitive to my mother’s needs. We were just visiting them for Pesach and I was so touched to see my 6-year-old daughter jump up from playing and run to push my mother to the room she was struggling to get herself to. My 2 ½-year-old just happened to pop out of the house elevator all proud that he managed to run it himself (just like Bubby) and my 10-year-old son said going to visit Bubby and Zaidy is like going to Gan Eden.


Yonit Wenick


 


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com 

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More Articles from Ann Novick

When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

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