Your role has changed… no longer are you the care giver. Your loved one has died and things are now different. You may be feeling a whole host of emotions ranging from relief, to anger, to disbelief and sadness. You may be responding by questioning who you are now, and how you go on. Welcome to the grief process.
Things are totally new and this major gear shift can be as overwhelming as the caregiver role you had. Your focus is different. Your routine has changed. A major loss has occurred.
Here are some tips to empower you in this new phase of your journey:
1. Honor the space/place that you are in emotionally. Your emotions may be all over the place and that is okay. There are no rules for grieving; it is a very individualized process and no two people move through it the same way. Acknowledging that this is a difficult time brings it into the light and allows for healing to begin.
2. Express the emotions that are surfacing for you. One of the biggest disservices we can do ourselves is to deny, suppress, avoid, or stuff our feelings. Our western society does not always embrace or encourage the expression of emotion especially when it comes to sadness and loss. However, by not allowing the feelings to surface we are akin to a pressure cooker that has a broken steam value. Emotions are energy in motion. If we don’t allow our emotions to flow through us and be expressed, then they get trapped. As humans we have a nice container for that in the form of our bodies. Headaches, backaches, stomach issues, joint aches, etc. – these can all be the result of unexpressed feelings of grief.
3. Don’t go it alone. A natural tendency is to isolate and think that others don’t want to hear your story or that they will be uncomfortable with your sadness. The truth is none of us is an island and we need the support and connection of others especially when we are grieving. There are probably more people than you might think who want to be there to support and listen to you. Ask for what you need and allow others the option to be there for you. They may be looking for your invitation.
4. Take time to be and not to do. Many people will be expecting you to “get back to normal” now that your caregiver role is over. Resist the urge to move too quickly. Your caregiver journey has changed you in ways that may not be evident so it is important to take time, assess your needs and your next steps, so that your new life reflects who you now are. Don’t let your timeline be dictated by others.
Above all, be gentle with yourself and remember that grieving is a process. You don’t wake up one day to find yourself suddenly ‘over’ the death of a loved one. The journey through this process and into the next phase of your life is as unique and special as you are. Take time to honor where you have been, the important role you have played, and the strength you possess to move forward.