Life after Caregiving
Your life as a caregiver has been consumed with caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual life of someone you loved. But now your caregiving days are over, hopefully, because they have been restored to health and wellness. Hurrah! But what if your caregiving days are over due to a passing? What is there to celebrate? Hopefully, a life shared, memories created and a life lived with love.
As a caregiver, your life has been filled with a daily routine of doctor’s visits, consults, surgeries, combining your schedule with theirs. And there was all the foreign language of medicine, the pharmacological information and side effects, and the worry that maybe you were missing something on behalf of the person you thought more of than yourself. There were times you didn’t know how you were going to get through the next 24 hours, right? You were literally living their life while yours became smaller and smaller.
And now your life as you knew it is over too. You find yourself with time to think about your life, your schedule, and your needs. What? I have needs? I don’t even know what my needs are! I don’t know what I want or who I am anymore!
And while you may feel guilty, you feel a sudden relief from the responsibilities and demands of caregiving. You would exchange this all for one more day with the one you love. You feel like a piece is missing and you don’t feel normal.
So how do you get to that “new normal?” Just as you adopted a “new normal” when you took on that leadership role of caregiving; now, too, you must get used to another “normal” that includes taking care of you.
Everyone needs to seek their own way and no one can determine for you how long that will take. You may feel depressed, feel a loss of identity and may struggle to find out who you are now. But you can do this – Just like you did when you had to learn to be a caregiver!
If you are at this place in time of loss, here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
- Take time to grieve. This may come in the form of denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, isolation, anger, despair, and depression. It doesn’t happen all at once. You may find you are caught up in arranging funeral and burial services, settling finances, too busy to take time to grieve. Though you may push grief aside, know these feelings will bubble up, sometimes at the most inopportune moments. Take time to process and FEEL them.
For me, this happened two and half months after my mother passed. Mother’s Day. We were supposed to get together with my brother’s family but at the last minute they were unable to make it. And wanting – no – needing to feel close to my mom, family was my answer. When it wasn’t to be, I totally fell apart and found myself yelling, screaming and running out the door with car keys in hand and no plans as to where I was going. I ended up in my mother’s apartment which at this point was totally devoid of all furnishings and only had her clothes in her closet left to go through. It was there that I found myself, hugging her clothes, breathing in the scent of her perfume and sobbing. All that I held in prior and after her death exploded and the release was like hot lava flowing in tears around me. And there I found relief. Know there is no timetable. Everyone grieves in their own way. During this time, exercise, talk, journal, seek counseling and friends who will listen and support you. Do what you need to do to express your feelings and not keep them bottled up.
- Let others help you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a caregiver, you provided all the support and love. Now is your time to be a care receiver and allow others to show support and love to you.
- Take time to care for your health. Make healthcare checks ups that you may have been putting off because of time constraints.
- Take some time when making major decisions. You need time to recoup from caregiving and grief and you may need time before making major decisions. Put off those that you can until your emotional, physical, and spiritual body has been restored.
- Join a support group. Talking with others that are facing similar loss along with a counselor can help with feelings of isolation.
- Try new routines in your daily schedule. Remember to eat, exercise, talk with friends and try new things like joining a book club, or taking up a sport.
- Evaluate your relationships. You may find that some people will shy away and distance themselves from you; while others you may never have thought will step forward and embrace you with support and friendship. Accept that some people will come into your lives for a reason or a season and embrace it as a new avenue in living.
- Choose what you want to do next with care and thought. Many will find themselves at a loss as to what to do. They may become angry, bored, frustrated and the temptation will be to over book your daily schedule. Work to give yourself time to do nothing except work on healing from grieving. Discover activities and interests that are important and fulfilling for you. Alternately, you may want to isolate and feel like doing nothing. Try to seek balance between “zoning out” and time going out.
- Take time to set new goals for yourself. As a caregiver, your life revolved around meeting your loved one’s needs. Now it’s your turn to think about what your needs and goals are.
- Give Back. As a caregiver you have gain a wealth of knowledge that can be shared with others. Find resources to give back in ways of support and encouragement. Helping others can help heal a broken heart.
Yes, there is life after caregiving. Take time to grieve, discover who you are and what you want to do as you step into a new season of living.
Thank you for reading my post. If you have found it encouraging please consider liking, commenting or sharing it. Feel free to even re-blog – may these words take flight!
I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my debut book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts. To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.lorettaschoen.com
Blessings for Health & Wellness.