Cat.LoveWe think of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic love. But let’s expand the definition of love a little bit to explore the kind of love that heals the giver and the receiver; the kind of love that is an expression of acceptance and kindness. Let’s take a look at unconditional love.

If you love someone who is in the hospital, this kind of love can be especially challenging. How can you love all of someone when part of that person is a chronic or serious illness? Can you choose to love a person and hate the part that is the illness? I’m not sure there’s one answer that fits every person, every relationship, and every illness. So this Valentine’s Day, consider asking yourself how you go about loving the person in your life with illness. What does this love look like for you?

Do you love the person completely, embracing the illness and along with it the pain, the limitations, maybe even the adjustments to your own life and your own dreams? Or do you separate the illness from the person so that you can love the person but hate the illness?

Maybe it matters if the illness is a temporary thing – something you and your child can set yourselves against and work together to overcome. In that case, isn’t it okay to hate the illness? On the other hand, what if chronic illness is something that will forever affect your child? In that case, can you separate the illness from the person?

Then once you’ve wrestled with that question, here are some other challenging ones: How does your child love you in return? Is this person’s love conditional on your good mood, helpfulness, and what you bring with you to the hospital, or is it unconditional? What about other people in your life?  How do they love you and how do they show that love?   Is it difficult or easy to receive the love that flows to you?  Do you allow yourself to receive the love and support from others, and if so, how?

This post asks more questions than it offers answers. Most of the time we try to give you information you can use, from the perspective of our experience with illness or from experts who work closely with people with illness. But sometimes there isn’t an easy answer and I think that love in the context of chronic illness is one of those cases. That is where journaling can help.  All of these questions can be something you can journal about so you may uncover the answers that lie within.

Sheri Brisson
Sheri Sobrato Brisson is a brain tumor survivor who discovered the importance of self-reflection during her recovery. From her personal illness experience and a dozen years supporting families and children with serious illness, her life’s philanthropic mission is to empower families and children facing serious illness. She has started and facilitated support groups for children with illness and their families for over twenty years with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Brain Tumor Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Packard Children’s Hospital. She has served as Board Member for many children’s health nonprofit organizations including American Cancer Society San Jose, UCSF/Mt. Zion Auxiliary, Creighton Health Institute, and Okizu Foundation. Brisson received her master’s degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and her undergraduate degree in human biology from Stanford University.
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