Liz Pryor from Studio City, Calif., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read her response to a viewer-submitted question below!
Question from Rene in California:My wife had a medical accident six years ago, is in a vegetative state at a long term care hospital and I am still in love with her. Although everyone tells me to date and find friendship with someone else, I still feel guilty, as though I'm cheating. Is there a time frame I might look forward to, or perhaps a mindset that I can try to adopt to overcome my guilt? I'm not actively looking for someone, but the two instances that an attractive woman showed interest in me, I think they could tell that I was "attached" and soon disappeared. Is this common? Is there something I can do to, at this point, just meet a friend?
Thank you for writing in, your story is such a sad one … I am so sorry. I hope I can help shed some light on a new path for you. I'd like to answer you first, from the part of me that was married for 14 years.
What if you were to go back in your mind to a time before this accident, and imagine you and your wife are sitting around talking causally? The "what if" conversation comes up. You ask her what she would want you to do, if she one day had a bad accident and was left in this kind of state? You know her the best Rene…What would she say? Really what would she say and mean? And then turn this around and ask what you would want for your wife if it were you in this state?
When you know these answers, you can begin to feel something different, perhaps. Possibly even the permission you need from yourself to move forward.
The medical specifics of your story are well beyond my general knowledge, so I did turn to a dear friend who happens also to be a renowned Neurosurgeon in Southern California, Dr. Michael L. Levy MD PHD. He shared the specifics, (of which I am sure you are aware) in terms of the minimal projected outcome for a meaningful life in a case like your wife's. He also commented on the heroic character you have shown these last six years.
What you are feeling is more than common, and entirely expected for those who have loved ones in this condition. Doesn't make it easier, but you asked if it is common, and the answer is yes! In terms of a time frame for emotions and feelings changing? That is different for each person, but I wonder it it's starting for you now. Your reaching out with this letter could be the beginning of a new track.
When meeting people? You can talk about your situation if you like. Put out the truth that is your life, and your heart. People won't then be guessing, and you won't be guessing what they're thinking. You will be shocked at how well it works.
I would suggest you get some consistent support for yourself as you move through this next year. A therapist, a Pastor, a Rabbi. Whoever you feel you can count on, to help keep you committed to working through your emotions and dealing with the unfamiliar and sometimes erratic feelings that surface in times like this. You are clearly a brave and loving man. Thank you for sharing your story.
Peace and great things for you as you move forward.