Strength in Unity #2:
by Coy Cross II, Ph.D
Men are fixers, so when crisis afflicts those they love, hardwired instinct is to try and fix it. Not possible in most cases. Anger and guilt are often the next step. In 2009, when my wife Carol was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I
found myself in an unfamiliar role, one for which I was unprepared. My first thought was, “I wish I was still working, so I wouldn’t have to deal with this 24/7.”
That guilty sentiment passed quickly as I settled into our “new normal.” I soon realized I was not the only man in this strange (to us) position. As our population lives longer, more and more of us men find ourselves unexpectedly caring for our mates. As the hunters, we find this need to nurture and care somewhat foreign to our makeup.
This involves a role-reversal for most of us. For millennia, women have taken care, tended the young and the sick, while men provided food and shelter and protected the family from harm. Now we suddenly find ourselves thrust into a job we never expected or prepared to do. Perhaps for the first time, we have to ask for help, which we mistakenly can view as a sign of weakness.
Whereas women have other women for support, either physically or emotionally, men feel they must be strong and handle this new responsibility stoically, without help. They will suffer alone, needlessly, often to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion.
My previous experience as caregiver convinced me I would need help caring for my wife Carol. As I told a friend, “I have always been the Lone Ranger, but for this job I would need a posse.” Fortunately, I had friends and family I could turn to for support and I didn’t let my ego keep me from asking, “Greg, can we have coffee, I need to talk.” “Dee, can you be with Carol for awhile, I need to go to the gym.” “Beth, can you stay with Carol for a few days, I need some time for myself.”
My suggestion to male caregivers is to set your ego aside, ask friends, neighbors, family members for help, join a support group and learn how to take care of yourself in this time of crisis. You are the most important element in helping your loved one recover and survive. The better you care for yourself the better you can care for the one you love. First, accept that it is what it is and you can’t fix it.
Share with us each month here and visit Facebook to learn more at The Dhance. See author Cross as he discusses discoveries, lessons and shares insights on YouTube.
You also can learn to cope in delving into the mind, life and acceptance of life and death that is the heart of Coy Cross’s experience related for all to learn from in “The Dhance” (Available from
KohoPono Press, ISBN 978-0-9845424-2-0, visit kohopono.com or call 503-723-7392).