Monday, September 30, 2019

In Grief: Coming to Terms with Blindness

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay 
[Reviewed and updated December 7, 2021]

To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.  ~ John Milton

A reader writes: I am searching for some advice on how to help my wife come to terms with the loss of her vision. She was a student of language and literature and a painter. Now she is blind from a disease at the age of 32. We have two remarkable children ages 11 and 12. She is isolating herself more and more. The vibrant woman I have been married to for over 13 years is afraid to go outside or answer the door.
She becomes very angry when things aren't put in the exact place as they were before. She was never this controlling before. I don't know what to do. Is this healthy for her to be afraid even to go to the grocery store with us? She was such an outgoing person. Now she thinks people will either hurt her or pity her. Is this grief? She doesn't want to learn the bus system, Braille, or mobility training. The facilities that offer her these skills keep telling me not to push her. I am confused. I love her so much! Please help me figure out what to do for her. Thank you.

My response: My friend, I am so sorry to learn of your wife's vision loss. I can only imagine how devastating this must be, not only for her, but for you and your children as well.

Certainly your wife is grieving ~ not only for the loss of her vision, but for all of the secondary losses that accompany it as well: her independence and freedom, her image of herself as a strong and capable person, her hopes and dreams for the future, and all that she will never "see" again. The enormity of what she has lost is staggering, and it is only natural and human for her to be reacting with overwhelming feelings of shock, numbness, anger and denial. You say she was never this angry and "controlling" before. Keep in mind that when we feel as if we're losing control of things, we tend to over-control that which we can control, so that we don't feel so out of control ~ Does that make sense to you? Besides, your wife has to have someplace where she can discharge the energy of all the anger she must be feeling ~ and one of the safest targets for our anger is to aim it at the people who are closest to us, because they know us better than anyone else and they are most likely to see through our behavior to the pain that lies underneath, forgive us for being human, and keep on loving us anyway.

It is telling to me in your message that "the facilities that offer her these skills keep telling me not to push her." I've no idea when all this happened to your wife or how much time she's had to come to terms with all of it. but I can tell you that adjusting to such a devastating loss is a process that takes time and effort, not only on her part but on your and your family's as well. A loss of this magnitude will affect the whole of both of you, in every aspect of your lives: physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and economically.

Is there anyone with whom you can talk about all of this? This is an enormous task that lies before you both, and you ought not to try going it alone. I've no idea what part of the country you're in, but I urge you to consult your local library, look in your Yellow Pages, and search the Internet for various organizations that can refer you to whatever support may be available to you in your community. Look for organizations like the American Foundation for the Blind, your state Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, American Council of the Blind (ACB), etc. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this, my friend ~ there is only your way, and you and your wife must find that way for yourselves. But you need not feel as if you must do it all alone. There is an enormous amount of help out there for people in your situation. See it as a gift that you can give to your wife, to yourself and to your family. You just need to reach out and ask for it. I wish you all the best, and I hope you will let me know how you are doing. Meanwhile, I will keep you both in my heart and in my prayers.

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