Caring for another adult can be demanding to the point that caregivers put much of their own lives on hold. When those duties suddenly end, the caregiver is left not only grieving but also processing new emotions about their own station in life. Some find they’re not quite sure what to do with themselves because their reason for getting up in the morning, their all-consuming job, has now ended. For some people it takes awhile to feel like themselves again.
Here are some tips for what to do when caregiving ends.
Don’t let isolation overcome you
It may sound obvious, but it is also essential: Stay busy to fight loneliness and depression. Find that thing that gives you purpose. That may be traveling, writing, starting a new hobby, or even a new job. Don’t allow yourself to stay home and alone. Get out of the house and find things that give you joy.
You’ll experience some unexpected emotions
The range of emotions that emerge after the death of a loved one can take caregivers by surprise. Sadness is common, of course, but so are frustration and anger. And guilt. Ex-caregivers often feel a sense of relief that their difficult duties are over. And then they feel shame about feeling that way.
It’s okay to feel whatever you feel. There are no good and bad emotions. Allow yourself to experience the emotions as they come.
The hard part may come later
You can expect that the first year will be difficult. But you might not expect that the second year after caregiving would be tougher. In the months after your loved one’s passing, you can immerse yourself in managing family business matters and ensuring that holidays weren’t too painful for their children and grandchildren. But eventually the reality will set in: “This is your new life. There’s no going back.”
Put off the big things
When caregiving ends, other major life changes, such as selling a house or remarrying, should be delayed for a while. Exhaustion and grief can cloud decisions. Give yourself time to go through everything you go through the first year, and then think about the changes you might want to make. Move slowly. Resist the urge to immediately run from everything. Keeping with your family routines, in the comfort of your shared home can provide solace, too.
It is OK to move on
Eventually, you will likely find a way to find new happiness in your life, and possibly a new relationship with someone. That’s ok. It is possible to enjoy life and maybe even enjoy it with someone else when you’re ready.
If you need help dealing with the end of caregiving and all of the emotions that involves, please reach out to Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. She can match you with Peer Mentor who has been a caregiver, too, and understands, connect you with a support group, or provide you with free mental health counseling. As a co-survivor, you deserve support, too.