Allowing their passing to be peaceful when the time comes is the ultimate gift a family caregiver can give to their senior loved one.
Unfortunately, the result of a loved one’s loss is grief, making that final loving act of caregiving the most difficult.
We all have faced or will face a situation where grief is forthcoming. It could be the loss of a pet, the loss of a favorite home, or the loss of someone we love.
Even when we know it is coming, the grief is still painful. Dealing with our grief is not easy for any of us and at times it can overwhelm us. If that grief occurs from a sudden loss, one that was unexpected or even tragic, to a healthy or a young person or to someone very close to us for whom we spent our time caring, the grief can be powerful.
We many need some help to deal with our emotions so that we can move on with our own lives and heal.
Dealing with Our Caregiver Emotions
If you begin to feel like your grief is not improving or you are experiencing a deeper feeling, perhaps depression, it might be time to try some strategies or seek help dealing with your grief.
Remember that there is no one right way for you to personally deal with your grief and everyone experiences it a little differently, so give yourself permission to deal openly with it so that healing can occur.
- Talk to someone about your feelings. Express your emotions so that you can understand and resolve your deepest feelings. You are not alone and just talking about your feelings can help you move on. Reach out to your family members for support.
- Seek out a support group of others in your situation and share with them your feelings, emotions, and strategies to overcome your strong sentiments.
- If you haven’t done this yet, it is time to participate in a memorial for your loved one. Setting up a remembrance ceremony that has meaning to both you and your loved one will help you process and find closure. Sharing with others who also loved your family member will give you some peace. Perhaps planting a tree or flower, spreading their ashes, having a book reading of their favorite passages, listening to a recital of their favorite songs or hymns, or collecting some favorite photos into an album or video will help you cope so you can heal.
- Have you truly had a good cry or other emotional release? It is often cathartic to release your feelings. It is not necessarily healthy to weep for days, weeks or even months but to get one gut wrenching cry over with could help you. Memories can be painful but that pain will decrease over time.
- Write down in journal format your experiences with your loved one as a caregiver. This will often give you an outlet to process your emotions in a safe way. You will never have to show this to anyone unless you choose to but keep as a diary for yourself.
- Examine your feelings. Are you feeling guilt about the way you gave care or dealt with siblings? Are you angry that your loved one left you with so many decisions or money worries? Are you afraid that you didn’t feel enough or didn’t show sadness enough? If you are able to uncover the root of your emotions and begin to remember and be thankful for the things that were good, it could help you move on. Be thankful for the time you had together, that you were there at the end, that you will carry on their traditions and that you will remember them well.
- Understand that it is normal to have your grief emotions resurface in the coming years, especially on certain days such as birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. Many other things can also trigger memories, such as certain smells or a song on the radio. This can be a slight setback in your healing process but just refocus and continue pursuing those things that help you manage your recovery. If you are mindful of the possibility of this reaction, you can make plans to reduce the likelihood of sadness such as being prepared to distract yourself on a special day like a birthday or choose this time for a memorial. Keep in touch with others who were important to your loved one and share your memories.
Feeling sadness and loss are normal and these feelings allow us to experience other feelings as well. In our grief we can laugh and smile and remember the good times. We can also become closer to other family members as you share the feelings and help one another heal.
Do you have any advice for others about how to process their grief?