When caregiving ends: Emotions

Waves of emotions
When a person you’ve been caring for dies, you are likely to have many feelings. Sometimes conflicting feelings. You may find that emotions wash over you unexpectedly, arising suddenly like a wave, and then subside. This is a normal part of life after loss.

  • Grief can be described as a combination of sadness and love. Your sadness may manifest in tears, in physical pains, in fuzzy thinking, in sleeplessness, or in oversleeping. Expect your sadness to retreat over time and on no specific schedule. The memories of love will remain.
  • Relief is another common emotion. Relief that your loved one is no longer struggling. But also relief that you no longer need to focus so intensely on their care. It’s not disloyal of you. It’s very human to feel a sense of release, even gratitude, that this chapter is over.
  • Guilt may also arise. None of us is selfless, kind, and loving at all times. We do the best we can. As you reminisce, forgive yourself for any lapses. Instead, acknowledge all that you were able to contribute.

The tender first year
There will be many “firsts” in your initial year after caregiving: first holidays, first birthdays. And if your loved one was a spouse, the first anniversary without them. As you cross these milestones, be prepared for a strong welling up of emotions. Expect this vulnerability—it is normal—and be gentle with yourself.

Overwhelm
If you find that it’s hard to get up in the morning and go through the day for a period of two weeks or more, talk to your doctor. Although depression might seem “normal” for the circumstances, it does not need to go untreated. It may be that a support group, talking with a therapist, or medication can help you through this rough leg of your journey.

Is caregiving drawing to a close?
As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids expert in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice know that this journey does eventually come to an end. If you see it on your horizon, you may already be experiencing some of these emotions. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free. You don’t need to go through this alone.