The Emotional Toll of Caregiving
Caregiving for a loved one can provide a real sense of purpose but can also be very exhausting and stressful.
The Hospice Foundation of America conducted a study and found that caring for a loved one during a life-threatening illness can affect how a person reacts after their loved one has passed away. As a primary caregiver for a sick loved one, people may often feel an acute sense of grief while providing care. And then may even feel a sense of relief that the intense caregiving duties are over once that person has passed.
A man who cared for his wife for five years explained his reaction after his wife passed away. “I spent the last few years as a caregiver for my wife. When she passed away in January, I realized it wouldn’t get any easier now that she was gone. I went from a having a caregiver job that was 24/7 to having nothing to do. Even after months, I wake up hearing her call my name”
Another woman who took care of her husband with dementia expressed the experience of losing him after years of being a caregiver, “I didn’t know just how stressed out I was or how guilty I would feel when he passed.”
The Family Caregiver Alliance offers self-nurturing tips when caring for a family member:
- Acknowledge both good and bad feelings
- Start a journal and record your feelings
- Get support from friends, family and professionals
When caring for a sick loved one for an extended period, we often grieve that person’s loss long before they actually die. It is also common to feel less grief when the person actually passes away. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and each person must handle it in their own way.
Some people make major changes in their lives in order to care for a sick loved one. Some quit their jobs, others move to another state and trying to adjust can be extremely challenging when that family member passes away.
Each person has to find their own path after a loved one has passed away and work to find their direction. The Hospice Foundation of America created a guide for people and family caregivers that experienced a lost. This guide is a useful tool with a great deal of helpful information.