“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.”
Grief is a natural response to a loss. Psychologists tell us that numbness, crying, anger, mood changes, aches and pains, short-term memory loss and sleeplessness all tend to be normal symptoms of grief. If you have been a family caregiver for someone you love, the intensity of these symptoms can be influenced by how long you provide care, the type of illness and its affects on the patient and the support system that is in place to help you throughout this period.
Of those three, the thing you have the most control over is that support system. Hospice of Montgomery can provide you and your loved one with a plan for day-to-day patient support and caregiver support that includes strategies for dealing with grief. Grief and spiritual counseling are available to you. These professionals are trained to identify the situations and triggers that may indicate you are having difficulty with grief and help you look at options that might ease the process and give you welcome relief.
Why do you need support with grief during the caregiving process?
Some studies show that grief experienced by a caregiver actually begins before the loved one passes. While the process of caring for a loved one is a natural and honorable way of saying good-bye, even though it is difficult, it is somewhat necessary for both parties involved. The same studies show that if the loved one is placed in a higher care facility during this period for whatever reason, you do most of your grieving after the death event and that the process takes longer the majority of the time.
Bereavement, on the other hand, is the process a person goes through to handle grief. Some people think it is linear, but it is not. You don’t go from one stage to the next on any type of schedule. It is very individual. It is important to be aware that if you find, after several months, that you are unable to resume normal activities or routines, you might be suffering from something called “complicated grief” and should seek help from a counseling professional right away.
Coping with grief and going through bereavement
People will say that this process is normal, and it is, but that doesn’t mean it is without emotional, spiritual or physical pain. Managing this process can help keep the effects from getting overwhelming and destructive to your own health. Keep your bereavement journey in check by looking at the list below periodically. Print it out and keep it on the refrigerator or on your nightstand if you need to.
Figure out your triggers. They are unique in some ways to you. Of course, all the “firsts” are going to be difficult – first holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. These you can anticipate and prepare for ahead of time. Make a plan of how you can best spend that time so that you protect your health and mental wellbeing.
What may be more difficult are all the times when the triggers are unexpected – the smell of their favorite flower, a song you both loved, questions people might ask you, particular things you enjoyed together or places you liked to visit. You can still have a plan for when these unexpected triggers occur – breathe, remove yourself from the situation or call a friend are all good options. Know yourself and know what will work for you before the trigger hits your blindside.
Find an outlet for your symptoms. Counseling and support groups are an excellent way of identifying your grief symptoms, getting them out in the open, finding out what has worked for others and practicing coping skills. Whether it’s through your hospice care team, a church group or private counseling, take advantage of this care.
Continue to have a support system. Keep friends and family close. All the folks you can count on for support will be there for you as long as you need them to be. Don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, they love you and some of them derive help themselves with bereavement by supporting you through this process. You are not alone.
Keep your life moving. There is comfort in routine, activities with friends and spirituality. Do as much of this as you feel comfortable. Take care of yourself by eating healthy regular meals (even if they are small). Exercise and rest are always very important. Resist the urge to be isolated for long periods of time. The trigger here is the length of your isolation. Keep it in check and make sure, even if you don’t feel like it, that you are around people regularly. When you are ready, try a new activity. It is a positive step forward in this new chapter in your life.
Avoid making big decisions. You need time to “let the dust settle” you might say. This is a period of healing and your focus should be on just letting the process of bereavement play out. Let everything else in your life remain constant and still if you can. It is not the time to move, make major decisions or cut off relationships with people who care about you.
Keep the faith and let humor into your world. Laughter truly does heal many wounds. Keeping your spiritual soul whole and balanced can help you through difficult periods of grief. Find what works for you. Let others help you keep your faith and strengthen your hope for the future.