After a loved one dies, we may feel a mix of emotions—sadness, relief, guilt and regret, to name just a few. These emotions are typical. But, as a caregiver of that loved one, we may find ourselves wondering “what now?”
Our lives were so enmeshed with caring for our loved one that it may have been to the exclusion of all else; many caregivers give up socializing, working and family events to provide around-the-clock care for a family member or friend.
Part of the grieving process is to find a ‘new normal.’ Who are we without our loved one? What do we do now without him or her? What kind of future do we have? When we do understand we have freedom and allow ourselves to venture out, we may be plagued with unease or guilt. It’s as if we’re not comfortable in this new skin. We have forgotten how to do for ourselves, how to enjoy ourselves, how to live a life without schedules or structure.
As with any person experiencing grief, grieving caregivers need to be patient and gentle with themselves, give themselves time to heal and time to figure out what the next steps are going to be.
Practicing self-care is one of the biggest challenges. As a caregiver, we typically put off our own self-care because we just don’t have the luxury of time or even money. But by the time our loved one dies, we may find ourselves dealing with our own health issues on top of our grief.
As a part of this self-care, it is imperative that we make time for ourselves every day. Take the time to eat properly, rest, exercise, meditate or pray, read, listen to music, spend quality time with our family and friends again, or any other activity that brings joy. This is one of the biggest challenges; when we are grieving, self-care is something we really don’t want to do. Most find it difficult the first few weeks to get out of bed or venture out of the house. However, if we don’t, we will pay a heavy price, and children or other family members will pay that price as well.
A new griever finds it hard to believe that things will get better. But they do! Each person grieves and recovers in his or her own unique way. Some will take longer than others; however, with each passing day, it gets a little better, and we usually find that we are starting to put a plan together for our new future—that ‘new normal.’
Learn more about Carroll Hospice’s bereavement resources or call 410-871-8000.
Jill Englar, L.C.S.W.-C., is the director of Support Services at Carroll Hospice.