Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
For many years now, my husband, children and I have been living with my disabled and depressed parents-in-law. Now that we have a newborn and one of my children is scheduled to have surgery soon, I am finding it hard to cope. I myself have also had trouble with depression.
There are times when the frustration gets so bad that my in-laws are physical with one another and sometimes my husband who does everything for his disabled parent (like bathe, toilet, dress, transfer from bed to chair, etc) on top of holding a full time job, even gets disrespectful towards his parents because of the constancy of demands and lack of appreciation by them.
Is it better to keep trying to be patient and waiting for Allah to either increase us further in patience or ease our troubles? Or is it better to find practical solutions to our problems, like alternative care arrangements for my in-laws?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
Narrated `Abdullah: I visited Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) while he was suffering from a high fever. I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace))! You have a high fever.” He said, “Yes, I have as much fever as two men of you.” I said, “Is it because you will have a double reward?” He said, “Yes, it is so. No Muslim is afflicted with any harm, even if it were the prick of a thorn, but that Allah expiates his sins because of that, as a tree sheds its leaves.” [Bukhari]
Dear sister, you are doing incredibly well under the circumstances you are in. The stress of a newborn is already huge, let alone the demands of a sick older child in need of surgery, multiple children, as well as the demands of disabled and depressed parents-in-law – on top of your own struggles with depression. Ya Latif. May Allah grant you all ease in these deeply stressful circumstances. I pray that Allah rewards you for all of your years of sacrifice. Please know that none of your suffering is in vain. The fact that you are being tested so much shows me how high your rank is with Allah.
Please refer to this: What Exactly Is Patience?
Please know that patience is not passive. It is an active, striving state of your entire being. To give you some perspective – your marriage and your children are your obligations, but caring for your in-laws is a sunnah for you.
There comes a time where you need to reassess the path of your life. You describe both you and your husband as being exhausted, and your husband has started to become disrespectful towards his parents. Although his short fuse is understandable, it is still a major sin, and something needs to shift. If he needs distance from his parents to be civil again, then that is the answer to your istikhara. I also encourage both of you to do this course Excellence with Parents: How to Fulfill the Rights of Your Parents.
1) Is it possible to share the load of caring for your parents-in-law? If your husband’s siblings do not want to help, then could you hire a nurse? A physical therapist? Can you afford any other hired help, just to take the load off you and your husband, on a regular basis?
2) Is there a psychologist who can come to speak to your depressed parent-in-law?
3) Are there support groups of elderly and disabled people whom you can put your parents-in-law in touch with?
4) Please continue to offload to your psychologist – you need your self-care more than ever.
5) Please perform the Prayer of Need as often as you can, especially in the last third of the night.
6) Give a small amount of sadaqah every day and beg Allah to show you a way out.
I would suggest placing your sick and elderly in-laws in a nursing home as a last resort. Please do everything in your power to exhaust all options before going down this path. Even if you do, could this be a temporary arrangement, until you find a better solution?
I am sorry that your brothers and sisters-in-law are not offering to help. This is, unfortunately, a common scenario. It is very difficult to care for disabled and depressed parents and parents-in-law, and you have lifted the burden from your husband’s siblings for many years. That is your sadaqah to all of them. Caring for their parents remains an obligation to them.
Through the lens of the dunya, it would greatly inconvenience them to take on the responsibility you have carried for so long. Through the lens of the akhirah, all of them are missing out on the opportunity to reap tremendous reward.
You and your husband will need to be very blunt with his siblings. Spell it out to them – if none of them step up, then your parents-in-law will need to go to a nursing home. Please ensure that all of you visit them regularly, and it is likely that your husband will have the mental space to be much kinder to them.
I pray that this has been helpful, and that Allah will bless you with a tremendous opening.
A Reader on Patience
Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.