A few weeks ago, my husband left for a TDY assignment. While he was en route to another country, my mother called to tell me that my nephew was in the hospital and that something was really, really wrong. She was hysterical. A few hours passed and my mom called back. This time, she was even more hysterical. Once I calmed her down, I found out that the doctors suspected my nephew had Hodgkin's Lymphoma. They would know more in a few days after some additional tests. I tried to remain steady in order to calm my mother down, but as soon as we hung up, I lost it.
In the process of "losing it," guess who called to let me know he had safely landed?
Yep, you guessed it. My husband. I was sobbing uncontrollably and through the bad connection, he was trying to figure out if the house had been burned down, the cat had been run over or someone had died. He only had a couple of minutes to talk to me. He had planned on calling just to tell me he was boots-on-the-ground and all was well. I told him what had happened and, as quickly and gently as he could, he told me we needed to wait for the test results before assuming the worst. I knew this, of course, but at the time, I had not had the luxury of processing the information, pushing the worst-case scenario from the front of my mind to the back and letting reason set it.
My husband told me he needed to go, his ride had arrived, and then I apologized for being hysterical when he called.
"No, no, baby, don't worry about it. It's okay, don't worry. I love you"
But I did worry. I worried because I thought he would worry about me, and I felt guilty for letting him know how upset I was when there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Had my husband not called at the precise moment that I was having a mega melt-down, I would have concealed my sadness and worry from him as much as possible. I would have had time to get over the shock and stop focusing on the worst-case scenario. Reason would have, hopefully, set in. I would have told my husband what was going on, but he wouldn't have heard panic, heartache and fear in my voice. I realize we all handle these situations differently, but that would have been my way to deal with it.
My husband had email access during his trip, so we were able to email a few times before he returned. I made it a point to tell him that I was fine and the family was fine. We were just hoping and praying for the best and that we had developed positive attitudes. My email was decidedly measured until we got the test results back. I felt that I had assured my husband that I was doing okay and he shouldn't worry. I even cracked a few jokes during the process. My sick humor saves the day....
In the end, the doctor's were wrong - my nephew does not have cancer, but he will require some surgery. Much better than the alternative. But the episode reminded me that none of us can control when bad news strikes. If we could, we'd schedule it in between deployments and TDYs when the steady arms of our spouses could physically be placed around our shoulders.
How have you chosen to deal with bad news when your spouse is away?