Most informal caregivers are special people who dedicate themselves to taking care of aging loved ones. But caregiving can also be an emotional rollercoaster filled with highs and lows depending on the day. Feeling grief and overwhelm as a caregiver is common both before and after the loss of a loved one. While the care recipient is still alive those negative emotions may cause indecisiveness and caregiver fatigue. After they pass-away grief can persist for months or even longer. Thankfully, managing caregiver grief and overwhelm is possible by following these tips.
Types of Caregiver Grief
Grief is a complex human emotion that can interfere with one’s daily activities. When caught up in the throes of grief, completing even simple tasks may seem impossible and futile.
Mental health experts have identified these different types of caregiver grief:
- Ambiguous grief. This occurs while your loved one is still alive but they aren’t consistently present in the same way that they used to be. For example, when caring for someone with dementia it’s common for them to fade in and out of their old self.
- Renewed grief. As that once-familiar person comes and goes you may find yourself experiencing periods of renewed grief.
- Anticipatory grief. This form of grief helps you process a loved one’s death before it happens, for example when they are in the end stages of cancer. Holidays tend to bring anticipatory grief and depression to the surface as you sense that your loved one won’t be there next year.
- Grief after your loved one dies. Caregiver grief at the time of death is usually the most intense. There are also five phases of grief that survivors typically go through. During the post-death period many caregivers question their identity or second guess their efforts.
Grief Management Tips for Caregivers
Staying strong while caring for an elderly loved one will help ensure that they enjoy a higher quality of life. Once they pass-away you may find yourself not being able to function at a pre-loss capacity for a while.
Either way, here are some ways to manage caregiver grief so that it doesn’t overwhelm you:
Be patient with yourself
Expect, at least for a while, that your ability to function will be impaired. Sometimes it helps to tell others around you about your grief. It’s okay to ask others for help so that you can stay focused and grounded. Don’t be afraid to find someone who can take on a few of your basic tasks until you are feeling like yourself again.
Find a good listener
It’s also important to find a good listener or two that won’t tell you to “get over it”, give you advice or bombard you with stories of their own grief. If it were that easy, you’d have done it by now.
Instead, seek out others who are patient and kind. Your good listener could be a:
- Religious advisor
- Member of a grief support group
- Licensed psychotherapist
- Close friend<