Dear David Coleman: My husband's illness has turned him into an angry dad

Q I have four beautiful children aged 14, eight, seven, and 13 months. Their daddy was discovered to have a serious autoimmune illness that nearly killed him and has left him a shadow of his former self. Due to the toll of the illness, their gorgeous daddy has turned into an angry, aggressive, irritable, impatient, grumpy, shouty daddy. They had been so patient and understanding for so long but it seems to have run out. Now I need to boost their coping ability all over again to help them get back to school.

David replies:  You use the word toll to describe the impact of the illness on your husband, but it seems to me like that is the perfect word to describe the effect on your whole family. I can only imagine the life-changing nature of this illness and how it must have rocked your family’s faith in the world.

It must feel so unfair to the children that this has been visited upon them.

It sounds too like since this illness was discovered and so quickly affected your husband, that you have been trying to hold everything together for the whole family. I wonder how you are able to mind your own physical, emotional and psychological health in the midst of such a crisis?

In terms of trying to boost the children, minding yourself, or finding family or friends who can mind you, may be the best starting place. You need people around you who can help to shoulder the practical pressures of raising four children and can shoulder some of the emotional burden.

Your children are probably grieving the loss of their dad. Perhaps, in fact, what they have lost most recently is hope, that the dad they once knew will ever be returned to them, since their dad’s personality seems to have changed so negatively, with no let up.

They will need lots of emotional support, lots of opportunity to feel upset, disappointed, saddened, angry, or whatever emotions come to the surface. However, because they are children, they will also need an adult, or adults, who can help them to process these feelings. Their feelings may be complicated by an underlying love for their dad, so they may even feel guilty at being upset or negative about him.

You are quite likely to be experiencing your own grief, and you too need the space and time to process it, which is why it is all the more important that your children have other people, like family or friends, that can support them too.

You cannot be all things to all people. You probably feel obliged to mind the children, mind your husband and keep the family on an even keel.

But the fairest way to achieve anything close to that is to make sure you get minded first.

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