The Healing of a Caregiver
Recovering from loss is never easy
Recovery was never easy, and it still isn’t, regardless of who you’ve lost and how. In addition, it’s not something you can ever rush because you want the pain to lessen. In his book about healing as a caregiver, Patrick Palmer puts it quite well.
“I believe the key to the healing of caregivers is time. There are really no shortcuts to be found. And there is no standard template for the grieving to end. It is a very personal journey.”
In his book, he explains his loss and recovery from his traumatic voyage by acting as a caregiver for his wife and eventually losing her. Your journey might not be identical to his, but there’s something everyone can take from this book when it comes to the healing of a caregiver.
Let yourself feel what you need to feel
As Patrick Palmer says, “There is no standard template for grieving.”
Grieving is a personal process for everyone, caregiver or not. When you’re dealing with the loss of the loved one, there’s no right answer to what feeling is the right one. You might feel saddened by their passing, upset at your perceived helplessness in preventing it, or even angry that they’re not in your life anymore.
You can’t bring them back, but you can let yourself feel what you’re feeling in the moment and then find a way to cope. Even the very best books about caregiving will tell you to give yourself time, and that’s what you need to do, but don’t bury your emotions while you’re at it.
Getting through the emotional benchmarks
“…….the first year is filled with emotional benchmarks, each representing a certain day that elicits a special memory.”
Suppose you’ve dealt with a loss or are dealing with one currently; you know how true it is. That memory someday feels debilitating. Like when you wake up one day and realize it’s your anniversary, but what was once the happiest moment of your life is just… painful. These special moments are tougher in the first year and sometimes even after that. However, celebrate those milestones because it might make the days more tolerable. Creating this emotive blueprint will help reduce your stress a little too.
Take care of yourself physically too
As a caregiver, it’s easy to forget about your health because you’re so focused on someone else’s. Mentioned in the book The Healing of a Caregiver – Helping You, a Caregiver to Understand What You Have Endured and What You Can Do to Move Forward, we get a glimpse of Patrick Palmer’s journey of coming to terms with his health while caring for his wife and after her passing. Once he found what was impacting his own, Patrick Palmer took steps to get the medical help he needed and started twice-a-week personal training. In his own words,
“The bottom line is that you, as a caregiver, undoubtedly will experience not only emotional challenges but physical ones as well after the passing of your loved one.”
This is a very important and common reality that people often ignore. Your loved one’s passing doesn’t just leave you broken emotionally but also physically. The taxing years where you act as an emotional and physical caregiver, basically becoming their crutch, can take a toll on any person, a fact repeated frequently by caregiving book authors. Taking care of the people you love is a great thing to do, and looking back, you’ll be glad you were with them in their most important times. But that also doesn’t mean that you let yourself go. It’s not how others will look at you but how you feel. If you’re not in the right physical state, it won’t do you any favors when working on your emotional and mental ones.
The Seven Stages of Grief – Dealing with an array of emotions
Grief hits us in many ways. Some find anger at the forefront of their minds, while others are left in shock, like Patrick Palmer. This is all part of the grief cycle. You might know of the 5-stages of grief, but it has been expanded on. The extension is known as the “7 Stages of Grief” model. It also doesn’t give you a set order of the different stages and instead explains how you can bounce back and forth. Nothing truly prepares you for when your loved one passes away, no matter how many guides to hands-on care giving you read.
Shock and Denial, Pain and Guilt, Anger and Bargaining, and Depression are all part of the original grief model, but there’s more to it. Grief isn’t one-dimensional and has now been extended to include the upward turn, reconstruction of oneself, and acceptance.
“The bottom line is that these emotions, and maybe others, will constitute your life for a varying amount of time.”
Recognizing your emotions and accepting them will help you reach the final stage of acceptance, where you truly start to move on. There’s no shame in asking for help from therapists and those around you.
Reclaim your life one step at a time
Recovering is what you want it to be. Your friends, family, and just life can help you. Take it one step at a time and find a way to understand your feelings to rebound from your tragic loss.