Caregiving Through Grief & Loss: Elder Care Tips & Tools
Thank you for continuing to read these monthly newsletters. I hope you are sharing the tips and tools with those who would benefit from them, and as always, I welcome your feedback on the content (and suggestions for future topics!). Send the note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
April was a difficult month in our home. Concerns about my daughter's healing and recovery process (she had double hip surgery in early February) caused emotions to flare, and I longed for the days when she was walking independently. Thankfully, the surgeon believes she is progressing well, albeit more slowly than other care professionals in our circle may have expected. A week later, our beloved dog, who had been declining for some time, passed away from an inoperable brain tumor. As we've grieved the changes that a major surgery brought to our home in recent months, we now grieve the changes that accompany life without our sweet dog.
Grief and loss are inevitable aspects of the caregiving journey. Caregivers constantly experience losses with the person in their care: loss of independence, loss of ability, loss of memory, loss of personality. Grief is not reserved just for the time following a person/pet's passing. If you're human, and a caregiver, you will probably experience some level of grief and loss on a daily basis. Learning to be vulnerable and authentic about those emotions will help you heal and cope. You should also recognize that the loved one in your care is also on a grief and loss journey themselves, and your support, compassion and sensitivity is vital.
Here are this month's tips and tools:
- TIP 1: Talk to someone who understands. When you're grieving, there is little that makes you feel worse than someone saying, "Get over it," "He had a good long life," or some other insensitive, even if well-intentioned, phrase. But when someone says, "This is such a hard thing you're dealing with," or "I'm crying with you about this," the comfort of those words goes a long way. Want to find a local or virtual support group that best fits your needs? I can help.
- TIP 2: Cry as often and as loudly as necessary. There is nothing wrong with sobbing, crying, or wailing. In fact, it's good for you and a necessary emotional release when you're experiencing the pain of grief. Don't hold it in. We have tears for a reason; use them well to express your justifiable sadness. And don't put a time frame on your grief either. Just because you've stopped crying doesn't mean you're "over" the loss. Likewise, just because you can't stop crying doesn't mean you're having an inappropriate response to your grief. Take your time and expect the tears to come and go for years. Read this Grief & Bereavement Resource Guide for more insights and advice.
- TOOL 1: Grief coaches/counselors can be a valuable support to you during a time of loss. Search for one here.
- TOOL 2: Geriatric Psychiatrists are hard to find -- but these professionals can be very helpful if an elder in your care is struggling with the compounded losses and grief that accompanies old age. Find one here.