Everything was going so well a few weeks ago. Now, mom is pale, weak, cannot cook, walk or drive anyone anywhere. How can children deal with their parent’s disease? How do mothers feel when they lack the strength to do everything that they used to do?
Type of disease
The impact on children is not the same if their mother is suffering from depression and if her disease has physical repercussions. When mothers are mentally ill their biggest challenge is to feel like they could do something but refuse to do so. The person looks healthy and it is hard to justify why she doesn’t act normally. Physically ill mothers, on the other hand, fear that their disease will get worse and they will not be able to take care of their children anymore. However, they can fully enjoy the moments spent with them.
In both cases, being a sick mother is extremely stressful and this stress, along with guilt, is making sick mothers even more tired. This is what Leila had to endure when she suffered a burn-out a few years ago: “I kept saying I was sorry at first and I cried because I felt useless. When I was trying to get back on track, I could not make decisions because I was afraid to make a mistake.”
It is important that family and friends help sick women become aware of that guilt so they can get over it and heal.
Children can understand their mother’s disease if someone explains what it is in simple words. If you are sick, do not hesitate to tell them about it so that they know what is happening without imagining things. Tell them what will change, what will remain the same and make them feel part of this situation that affects them too.
If you do not have the strength to talk to them about it, it is useless to feel even guiltier because of it. If someone you know has a talent to talk to your children, let him explain everything to them, if not, several books have been written on the subject to demystify various diseases. These books are written by professionals and will give you a hand.
To help children deal with this difficult period and to help the mother feel better, it is important for their friends and family to help them out. Taking the children to the cinema, fixing dinner, bringing games and movies at home are all ways to support the family. For some, it will be enough to keep children from understanding everything that is going on, for others it will be a good way to brighten the atmosphere and bring optimism in the house.
“I will always remember my teacher who had brought desserts at home because my mom could not cook anymore. His presence had made us forget about her disease for a few hours and his kindness made my mother smile because she was glad to see us laugh for once” says Alice when she talks about her mother’s disease. She adds “When my mom underwent a cardiac surgery 15 years ago, my aunt took me to the museum and brought me to the restaurant so I did not have time to imagine my mom on the operation table. It was a risky surgery; I was ready for the worst, but being with an adult who wanted me to feel better helped me through the day.”
Many children of sick parents will tell you, the worst thing that can happen to a family stricken by sickness is to see their loved ones take their distance. Whether by fear of being out of place or to avoid being overly needed, from the family’s point of view, losing friends is enough to have the impression that the whole world is collapsing. If you know a sick parent, do not hesitate to offer help. Your presence will never bother them, quite the contrary; every little attention will be appreciated.
It is good to know that some medication and diseases can be incompatible with breastfeeding. If you breastfeed and if you get sick, do not forget to ask your doctor if you can keep breastfeeding.