[By Patricia Mombourquette]
Grief is never easy but for the caregiver, who has witnessed the slow deterioration in health and subsequent loss of independence of someone they loved, grieving can be extra difficult. Even though the death may have been anticipated, you may not have anticipated the overwhelming emotions it has brought.
Although a long-term illness affords us the opportunity to say our goodbyes, in the end, the death is no less painful. In many cases grieving or anticipatory grief began as your loved one’s heath deteriorated. For all of their good intentions, many who offer support just don’t “get it” that even though the death was inevitable and expected, you have lost a very important person in your life and it is no less traumatic.
Most caregivers have put personal goals and dreams aside, choosing instead the selfless task of providing constant companionship and the compassion that could only come from a loved one.
Grief conjures up many emotions. It is not uncommon for the caregiver to experience a sense of relief after the death, knowing that your loved one is no longer suffering. But that may be compounded by feelings of guilt for even considering relief. The countless hours you have spent caring for and supporting your loved one, support that is no longer required of you, may now feel like an immense empty void. Those feelings of emptiness will soon begin to fill with sadness.
Now it is time to take care of you. Your life has been shattered and is under reconstruction. You need to allow yourself time for the healing to take place. Grieving is physically and emotionally exhausting.
Try to make plans to do something or see someone everyday. No matter how trivial. It will give you a reason to get up in the morning. Although casual socializing may be something the rest of us take for granted it may be something you have sacrificed for the duration of your loved ones illness. You need to reconnect with friends and family.
Attempt to maintain some level of physical activity. Apart from the obvious benefit it can be a great stress reliever. Your energy levels may be low at times but try to participate in activities or hobbies that you found fulfilling in the past.
Remember you are not alone. Support groups can be a valuable resource. Only someone who has endured a similar loss can remotely relate to the intense emotions you are feeling. If you are not ready to physically attend there are many on line support forums. Even if you are reluctant to participate it may still prove comforting to read over the experiences others are sharing. Some find it easier to talk to people they don’t know, others find it uncomfortable. Find something that works for you.
In time you can help yourself heal by finding a meaningful way to grieve. Perhaps raise awareness about their illness. Start a memorial project to honor your loved one. Volunteer for a cause your loved one supported. Join or start a support group for others going through a similar experience. It may not only benefit you but what you have to contribute may make a difference in helping someone else heal.
You have had no say in whether or not this personal challenge you took on occurred in your life or the subsequent pain you’ve been forced to endure but what you can control is how you move forward. When you find yourself becoming withdrawn and sad or bitter, reach out to another person who may need comfort. It doesn’t need to be something substantial or that will take a lot of energy. Something as insignificant as baking for an elderly neighbor or recognizing and being there for a friend who may need emotional support will help to refocus your energy on something positive.
Don’t let the memory of their declining health and sadness from their passing overshadow their amazing accomplishments. Let the years of happy memories you shared be their legacy.
Healing is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. Be patient with yourself.
Article Source: The Difficult Grief a Caregiver Endures