My X husband was much older than me and now he is very sick. It was a messy divorce as most usually are and his siblings were very harsh toward me. I made mistakes but so did he and nobody knows but us what really happened. We have not been in contact for many years. I never had any children with him. I don’t know what I should do. I feel I want to help in some way but I am not sure how to proceed.
Divorce has a way of changing our own lives forever. It is a part of who we are. Distance often mellows any of the negative feelings we once felt. Whatever happened between the two of you was obviously private enough that others were not aware.
Where you start is with the here and now and the knowns. You would like to help in some way. There are many ways to help someone who is facing the end of life.
It might be best to start by contacting a family member or someone you know is a close friend. Was there one friend or member of the family you think might be receptive? If so, write to that person.
Reach out to them either through an actual written letter or email. Be honest and truthful. Face the mistakes that were made and accept responsibility for the ones you made. Keep to a minimum anything written about the past. Old wounds do not need to be opened.
Deal with the present. Consider what you are prepared to do and set out options from direct contact to paying for some caregiver help. End the note by asking them what they think might be useful.
From your message, it is quite apparent that even though the marriage ended, you still care about his wellbeing or you would not be asking how to help.
Your goal is to find possible ways you can make a difference in his life right now. In your letter outline these options. If things go well, your level of involvement might increase. You could visit if the family allows. If he is in an institution remember to be helpful and not critical of his circumstances. Families are always under enormous stress caring for a family member.
If visiting is not an option then consider what else you can do. Caregiving is expensive for any family. Perhaps there is a way you can pay for some of it or arrange a regular caregiver visit. There are many services that provide various caregiver options including friendly visits.
The message to his family is that you want to help in some way. Make sure they understand you want them to feel comfortable with whatever it is they decide you can to do.
Be prepared for the family to turn down your offer. In your note to them say you understand that might be an outcome and you were aware of it when you decided to reach out.
If you approach your X husband’s family in a very non-confrontational way, it increases the chance of a positive reply. It may take a while as family members discuss your offer. Don’t badger them during this time. Everyone is on their own timeline and they are consumed with his care right now.
However, considering he is very ill, time is limited so you could ask for a decision within a few weeks. Remember to include preferred contact information.
Sincerity, openness, honesty are all key to breaking down the barriers that exist. If the family senses those values in your letter to them then there is a greater chance of a positive outcome. Good Luck!
If you are in need of a place to seek some advice on a way forward during separation and divorce please write to firstname.lastname@example.org – Reaching out is the first step.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.