Grief after the death of a loved one is often much stronger than the caregiver expects. But it is a natural reaction.
There are armies of full time carers who are the unsung heroes of today. They are taken for granted by society and not given the respect they deserve. To care for a sick loved one twenty four hours a day, seven days a week is a huge task which can go on for months or even years.
Being a full time caregiver means looking after all the household task as well as the personal needs of your loved one. It means doing all the shopping, cooking, washing, paying bills and more tasks too numerous to mention. This is a big commitment and many people could not cope with this.
It is not until the day to day routines stop that the caregiver realizes just how much strain they have been under. They have not been aware themselves how much pressure the role of full time carer has been.
Every waking moment has been devoted to their loved one's comfort and needs. Perhaps with little sleep, being tired, they may have been impatient at times. When their loved one dies they forget all the wonderful care they they gave and feel guilty about these moments.
Nurses and carers in a hospital or care home setting, work no more than eight hour shifts, coming on duty fresh for the day or night shift.
Caregivers at home never have the privilege of a day or night off. Holidays and sick days are unheard of. I recently talked to some carers who had flu, despite feeling ill they still coped with their sick loved ones. They felt they had no choice. How many of us could or would feel able to do that?
Carers reading this will identify with this situation. When you feel exhausted you just get on with daily routines, always looking after your loved ones needs.
I continue to be in awe of the carers I meet and it is a privilege to know them, yet many feel guilty because they felt tired and irritable. I want you to realize what a difficult and wonderful job you did and want you to be proud and kind to yourselves.
When the loved one dies, it is often a shock to the carer to realize just how painful their grief is. They imagined that they were prepared for the loss because of how ill their relative had been.
However the loss is great, because not only have you lost your beloved parent, partner or child but you have also lost your purpose in life and all your daily routines. You are also grieving for the lifestyle you enjoyed with them before they were ill.
Your personal needs have been totally ignored - your mind set had been devoted to your loved ones needs, so you are unused to looking after yourself.
Coming to terms with your needs and finding a new purpose in life is your priority as it has been alien to you to put your needs first.
Caregivers have often lost touch with old friends and groups and can suddenly feel very isolated and alone. One carer recently told me that the worst thing to cope with was living alone for the first time in her life. She was a lady in her eighties so it wasn't easy at that stage in life. All widows, widowers and divorcees will identify with this too. Cooking and washing for one and then having no one to talk to is a huge adjustment to make.
Just coping with each day is important at first.
Your life, however long or short is precious. You owe it to your friends, family and loved one to make the best of it. Have some fun time after all your great work. Eventually you will learn to think about your own life and needs. One day you will find yourself laughing with friends again. This acceptance does take time and your loved one will never be forgotten.
The pathways of grief are painful. Read some of the pages on how to cope with grief and you can learn to love life again. Finding a new purpose and focus in life can be wonderful. You can do it.
One day we will remember how lucky we were to have known their love with wonder not grief.
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