Dear Barbara, How does a person transition from caregiving after my loved one's death to restoring my balance, focusing on the new role for my life?
Grief is not about the person who has died. Most religions of the world teach that being dead we are in a better place. Grief is about us and how we react and feel about our life with someone we care about not in it any more. Part of grief is figuring out how to rebuild our life now that a huge part of it is missing. Loss has forced us to change.
Grieving, as so much of living, is hard work. Finding new activities, new direction, new routine, and new focus while your heart is still crying is one of life’s major challenges.
Really, each person finds their own way. There are as many ways of figuring out how to go on living as there are grievers. For those that were a full time caregiver through an illness that ended in death there are additional hurtles.
When we have devoted any length of time to caring for a person that requires a great deal of our time and energy and then that purpose in our life is gone we often flounder. We had developed a routine to our daily life and now there is none. What to do to fill the day, how to find, let alone create, a new routine are questions confronting us.
We are generally very tired, physically and emotionally, by the time our caregiving is over. Our thinking processes are not what we are used to. We are tired, weepy, aimless, not our usual selves. We are way out of balance.
Be gentle with yourself. Don’t have expectations of how you SHOULD be, what you SHOULD be feeling and doing. There will be functioning days, there will be nonfunctioning, cry days, and I think I’m doing better days. Cry days will gradually lessen (but not on any time frame other than your own).
For a while you will not feel like visiting, being with people. People will come to you but it is hard for you to reach out. Eventually you will begin to want to be with others again--a visit, a movie, a lunch.
Eventually you will begin to think about how you are going to fill your days now that they are not filled with caregiving --a job, volunteering, a trip. Think about what you would like to do now that you can. Maybe now it is time to get yourself in shape with better eating habits and exercise.
Think about what makes you happy, what relaxes you, what brings you fulfillment and joy. As you rebuild your life (and that is your task now) fill it with activities and direction that has meaning for you. This is literally a starting over point. As you leave the deep emotional pain of grief and enter the “what am I going to do with my life” part you have the unique opportunity to embrace life in a different way.
We tend to focus on the pain of grieving, it’s emotional lows. I am offering another side, the far side of grief, as an opportunity to direct the life you have with the life you want. Let the way you figure out how to go on living be the testament to the love and loss that you are experiencing.