Family caregivers are the backbone of the American healthcare system. While providing the level of care and comfort seriously ill loved ones need, family caregivers often sacrifice a great deal of their personal and professional lives. Careers, relationships, finances, and even spiritual needs take a backseat to ensuring loved one's needs are met. The constant attention to another's needs, over time, often becomes a core part of a caregiver's identity. After caregiving, the primary caregiver often loses the means to fill all the empty time. The void can feel like a giant hole that has no earthly bottom. It is not uncommon for caregivers to feel guilty or depressed, confused over one's identity and purpose in life, and even lonely.
Having invested so much time and attention into the care of another, focusing effort into coping with grief and personal needs can feel selfish and foreign. Now is the time to refocus all the love and attention you gave to your loved one and pour it into your own emotional, spiritual, social, and physical reinvigoration.
1. Coping with Grief and Rebuilding Emotionally after Caregiving Ends
Going through the period of bereavement and self-healing can be a very painful process. The natural ebb and flow of the grief process can at times feel manageable. But at other times grief feels like a tsunami that is going to shut down your world. Honor the grief process and know there is no "right" way to grieve. If you find yourself struggling with grief, there are many licensed counselors who can help you get through the process and even provide you with coping mechanisms on difficult days.
2. Rebuilding Socially after Caregiving Ends
We often lose our social network during the time when we are providing care. Sometimes it's because we are just too busy assisting our care partner, other times it's because we are too exhausted to even try to get out and maintain our friendships. Though we may not always feel like it, especially after experiencing such a painful loss and dramatic life change, we need uplifting connections with others. Cultivating positive, meaningful relationships with other particularly those who have experienced what you're going through tremendously healing when on the journey of grief recovery and self-reinvention.
3. Re-claiming Your Physical Health after Caregiving Ends
Feeling well physically will go a long way to help how you feel overall. You can even include social engagements with this aspect by inviting friends and families to participate with you. A simple bike ride or walk can make a huge difference. Getting rest after so much time of having unrestful sleep is incredibly important as well. Lie down when your body feels tired. Getting back to normal eating patterns is important as well. Gone are the days of heating up a TV dinner.
If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has 1000 people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.