Nothing can be more devastating than losing a loved one, whether it be your sibling, parent, child, or partner. And no one will be ready for that to happen.
For many, the long stretch of battling a disease might seem like preparation for what is about to come. But when it actually does, we feel both prepared and unprepared for it. And when it actually does happen, you find ourselves wishing for more time to do certain things with them and we end up listing the things we had forgotten to say. There is never going to be enough time to let the thought of a loved one dying sink into our system. And that is just the way life works.
Caregiving is not an easy task, but it can be a rewarding one. At present, there are 43.5 million people providing unpaid caregiver in the United States. Out of this number, 24% are millennials age between 18 and 34. It is such a common instinct that once anyone close with family finds out that a loved one is ill and that he or she needs help, the immediate reaction would be to jump on a plane or get in the car and just be there.
The actual care is tough, and it will test the bonds of family. So many caregivers go through what many call Caregiver Stress. We put ourselves out there emotionally, financially, physically, mentally. The responsibilities of balancing a job, your wellbeing, and the care that your family needs can even seem downright impossible at times. And for many, this new life lasts for years.
In spite of all the late nights and stress, we will never trade it for anything because they need it. And we need it, too. But what happens when it all ends? How do we and our families get back on our feet after that comes to an end?
It’s all about pacing
Grieving is a natural and personal process. There is no time limit, and there is no guidebook on how to go about grieving. While many choose to surround themselves with groups of people and the city buzz, others cope better by taking a step back to rediscover themselves. Bear in mind that you are allowed to grieve in your own way. Your grief is entirely your own, and you should not have to feel guilty for it.
Some people try to jump back into their old routines because it brings back a sense of ‘old’ normal. It might feel off at first as you have had a different normal in the last years. But this way, it can help you get back on your feet.
Some choose to travel. Nothing enlightens the spirit more than new experiences, sights, and different cultures. They get in touch with their selves through these new experiences. After all, we sometimes need to take a step back from everything else and just enjoy the world for all that it can offer.
Family above all
Once we lose a family member, it truly feels like a puzzle piece has been taken away from a complete set. So we ought to turn to those who are in the same situation and who completely understand: our families.
Talking about your grief with each other immensely helps. Not many people see how cathartic it is to express their emotions, no matter how difficult it may seem. It can become a form of release, and it can even help a struggling family member come to terms with the new reality.
Reconnect with yourself. Even when you feel like you don’t want to.
Often, when we become caregivers, we end up sacrificing so much. Old activities take the back seat, and some individuals end up putting work on hold. Understandably, we needed to dedicate so much of our time to our loved ones. And for years, that became the top priority.
As we get back to how it was before, try resuming hobbies that you enjoy. Join or re-join a group or a class that allows you to relearn a hobby. Or you can even try starting a new hobby!
A great one to start (or restart) is exercising. Being physically active has proven to improve people’s mood and lessen depression. People who exercise are naturally more positive, so who wouldn’t want that natural high?
Find a way to help other people in the same situation.
One of the rewarding things in life is having the ability to help other people. The situation may be difficult and challenging and the last thing we probably want at the moment may be to relive the whole event (albeit as an outsider this time). But if you feel like you have wisdom to share or an extra pair of hands to offer, then do so.
Volunteer and help others who are in the same situation you were before. Point them in the right direction when it comes to tools and resources or encourage the importance of long term care planning in families. It does not have to be something big, just make the extra effort. Sometimes, even listening to them and spending the afternoon is enough.
After all, we had other family members and loved ones with us, but some might not be as lucky as we were.