Caregivers devote endless time and energy to supporting other people’s needs, and along the way, their identity, perspectives and priorities can be changed forever. If you’re caring for a loved one and they pass away, you may experience a crippling sense of loss. Not just the loss of a loved family member or friend, but also the loss of your carer role.
When a caregiving journey ends, it’s rarely as simple as slipping back into “pre-caring” life. You will need to be patient and give yourself time to adjust to your new normal. To help ease the transition and find out who you are outside of caregiving, try some of these tips:
- Take Care of You: The stress of care has likely taken a toll on you physically and mentally, so this is an opportunity to prioritize your health. Make time to eat a well-balanced diet, get enough sleep and increase your daily exercise. While this can feel overwhelming after a loss, keep it simple. Set small, achievable goals and celebrate each step in the right direction.
- Reach Out: Caregiving can wreak havoc on your personal relationships—especially with the people who weren’t involved in your loved one’s care. Reconnect with the family members, friends and colleagues who will bring you joy and offer support.
- Take on New Challenges: It’s likely that caregiving made you too busy to do the things you enjoy. Consider trying a new hobby or activity that has always interested you or embracing a professional opportunity. Focusing on the positive, meeting new people and branching out of your caregiving bubble will be so beneficial.
- Readjust: After caregiving ends, what you used to value may change and that can make you question your choices. Maybe that means moving away from a demanding career, travelling now instead of waiting for retirement or relocating to a more comfortable climate. While you don’t want to make rash or impractical decisions, embrace your new perspective on life.
- Support Others: Consider using the many skills you acquired through caregiving to help other people. If your loved one had a particular health condition, you can assist someone facing a diagnosis or difficult symptoms. Some other ideas include volunteering at a non-profit you feel strongly about, advocating for your cause or doing something in honour of your loved one.
- Open Up: Navigating your loved one’s death and your changed role can start to take a serious toll. Talking to a professional can help you reduce stress, make healthy decisions and cope better. A support group is also a great way to share your experiences and connect with people who understand the unique challenges of caregiving and loss. Look online or talk to your doctor to find a therapist or support group that can help.
While scary, change can be a good thing after caregiving demands end. Just give yourself some time to heal, pick up the pieces and step into the next stage of life—one that may even include a new and fulfilling adventure.