- Andrea Holzner
Life After Caregiving!
Many Caregivers have a sense of loss, confusion and moments of "now what?" after a loved one passes. It is a time when the road ahead may not be clear and emotions cloud its path. The intensity of caring for a loved one is often the singular focus for months or years and then suddenly there is – in a snap – I daresay, freedom, of physically and emotionally caregiving for someone. This does not by any stretch mean a release of the loss or the process of grieving but there is a transition as well that occurs for the caregiver.
Life after being a Caregiver!
July 19th, 2013 marked the end of my caregiving chapter for my Mother. My mother had passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. It was a lengthy cognitive decline with the last year declining at a rate of a runaway train heading down a cliff. I had always been somewhat of a caregiver to my Mom as she suffered from alcohol addiction, which led to situations demanding care. Toward the last year of her disease, I did nothing but focus on her and providing the best care for her remaining time. Many Caregivers of loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s may spend 1, 3, 6 or more years caring. It is remarkable the kindness, compassion and sacrifice of a caregiver yet it is not without hardship. Many face financial burdens, physical ailments, relationship, and career stresses. During my time, I faced all of these as well as placing my hobbies and self-care on hold. I look back at the last year remembering how I tried to relax and have moments of fun and play, but the guilt was always lingering as a silent partner always by my side.
How could I be happy when my Mother is dying?
Many Caregivers experience guilt, depression, anger, sadness, and a host of emotions that, at times, are debilitating. You are not alone! Losing a loved one creates a grief process that is inevitable. This process is healthy and needed to transition back to your own life. Now what?!
Eventually, after the funeral, family departing, financial and legal work filed away, many sit wondering “now what?” The loss of a loved one coupled with the “Letting Go” can be confusing, and disorienting. What does life look like now free of caregiving? After the estate planning is completed, the files put away, the relatives depart, where does that leave you?
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked: “How are you?”
Counseling or support groups are wonderful platforms for processing emotions and thoughts around your grief. This is a time to just talk and share your grief. There is no need to explain or justify, just allow your thoughts to be expressed. Grief takes on both the mental and physical and creating a space for your self-care will help in the healing process. Each person is unique and so is their healing. It takes time to begin to see your own life again and what delights you. You move from being a caregiver of another to a caregiver of your Self. There is life after Caregiving!
Self-care not only nourishes you but it can also be playful and lead to finding your dreams again, or for the first time discovering new dreams! There are many ways to begin to process and find your joy! Find your passion; when was the last time you explored your desires, dreams?
These are a few options…
Writing your thoughts down can be cathartic and healing.
Creating art pieces with paint, clay, or other mediums is a wonderful vehicle to express
emotions through. The complexity of a person’s grief is often difficult to put into words
and with art, there is a physical manifestation of emotions. Many caregivers share their art with a
therapist to talk allowing for another approach to discussing painful topics.
Hobbies are a great avenue for play and fun. Activities such as playing Skitball or pinball at an arcade,
roller skating, or building model airplanes, allow for a “break” from thinking of the loss.
Dance, exercise, walk, yoga are all wonderful avenues for physical release.
As you begin your new chapter, there will be moments of grief and emotions that will catch you off guard as these are all a part of the healing process. Be gentle with yourself knowing that all is well. Self-care is so important and knowing options to turn to will be helpful. I had a few “comforting” people in my life that I could phone when I needed. I also found a wonderful therapist to talk with. When I had/have a wave of grief, I sometimes cuddle my dogs in my bed and watch an old Doris Day movie (one my Mother and I watched.) I cry, laugh, and just allow the memory. Knowing you have a special person or place or activity to comfort you can also be reassuring. These are a few self-care ideas but the list is limitless…
Sing, dance, watch a movie, take a bath, visit the gym, walk on the beach, eat ice cream, listen to
music, knit, journal, get a massage, have your hair done, visit the art museum, see a musical, go
to a concert, read a book, pet your animal, hike, go hot tubbing, look at nature, and many others.
Life may never be the same without your loved one, this is true, but it can be fulfilling, joyful and you will laugh again. I carry my Mother with me, along with my new adventures imagining her sharing in every smile, every laughter. I remind myself always ALL IS WELL!
For further information on grieving and self-care, see the links below.
Also, please feel free to contact me for information, ideas, or just to share.
Thank you for following! Together we will find holistic approaches for mind, body, and spirit.
"Never to be squandered, the beauty of another human being"