Transition: Moving Through the Void

 

One step at a time…

A transition of any type is rarely easy, as it signals a major life change .  The post titled “Impact on Your Life:  How Caregiving Defined You” discusses the personal impacts your caregiver journey had on your life.  Whether the experience was good or bad, there will definitely be a void to fill.  This is a major transition in your life.

It’s natural to push the inevitable out of your mind.  It’s not pleasant to think about and your instinct is, “I’ll deal with it when it happens.”  There may be a sense of relief when the time comes, however, there will also be many difficult aspects as reality takes hold. This post discusses ways to prepare for the transition before, during, and after it occurs.

BEFORE THE TRANSITION

♦  Keep in touch with friends; don’t isolate yourself.

♦  Stay current with what’s going on around you – in your community, your church, your extended family, the world in general.

♦  Take a few minutes during your quiet times to imagine what it will be like when your caregiving responsibilities are over.  Don’t dwell on the sadness, but rather what it will be like physically and visually.  For example, medical equipment will be removed, so there will be more space, more quiet.

♦  Think of how your days might flow when you have more time for yourself.

♦  Anticipate that you will need time (probably more than you realize) to rest.

♦  Consider what will need to be reorganized, what to do with the person’s personal belongings, what paperwork will be required.  Jot down lists as you think of things to help organize your thoughts and ultimately reduce stress.

♦  Consider who you might turn to for support:  friends, family, clergy, doctor, therapist, support group, etc.

♦  Practice daily devotions, meditation, and prayer to help you stay grounded.


DURING THE TRANSITION

♦  Rest your body.  Rest your mind.  Rest your spirit.  This is a time for reflection, replenishment, and renewal.

♦  Eat nutritious meals.  Avoid or limit alcohol as it’s a depressant.

♦  Realize that you did your best and you were a true blessing to this person.

 ♦  Let yourself feel God’s love and blessings through prayer, meditation, family, friends, church, and periods of rest.

♦  Do not allow guilt over things that could have been done differently to take over your thoughts and mood.

♦  Seek support from the people or groups you’ve already identified.

 ♦  Write the person a letter (even if deceased) if there were things left unsaid that are nagging at you.  Read it aloud, or burn it and think of the smoke as incense carrying your message to heaven.

 ♦  Hold on to all the positive memories and share these with others.  Many people find that keeping a journal of thoughts and feelings during this time aids in the healing process.

 ♦  Forgive your loved one and yourself for any negative incidences. God forgives – how can we do anything less?

 ♦  Put off any major decisions.  For example, realize there is no urgency to sort through their things; wait until you’re emotionally ready to handle it.


AFTER THE TRANSITION

♦  You will feel the weight of grief start to lift.  Now you will be able to look outside of yourself.

♦  Return to work and/or other usual activities.

♦  Consider volunteering at something you find rewarding and satisfying.

♦  Use the skills you’ve gained (patience, compassion, knowledge, organization, etc.) to help others.

♦  Practice good self-care.  Studies have shown that it’s not uncommon for a caregiver to need at least three years to fully recover from the stress associated with the caregiver experience.  (I admit I thought this seemed to be an excessive amount of time, but I have found it to be true.)

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Impact on Your Life: How Caregiving Defined You

THE CAREGIVER’S HEART ~ I designed this mandala early in 2017. It represents the heart of a family caregiver perfectly. There are painful times (small spikes toward the center), rewards (diamonds), being pulled in many directions (hearts leading out from the center and around the perimeter), always giving (crescents leading outward), and a range of emotions (variations in color throughout).

LIFE IMPACT

The impact on your life as a family caregiver should not be underestimated.  You’ve poured your heart and soul into it and given your best.  Whether the person you’re caring for has a dramatic recovery and is able to go on with their life, or the person passes on to eternal life, your role as caregiver will at some point come to an end, and there will be a void to fill.

It’s important to understand what this chapter of your life meant to you.  Give some thought about your caregiving role, how it encompassed so many aspects of your life, and the impact it had on your self-esteem.  

  • It gave you a purpose
  • It gave your life meaning
  • It became a big part of your own identity
  • It kept you focused and active
  • It served as a channel for your expression of love and compassion
  • It gave you the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life
  • It brought you closer to the person, to your family, to God
  • It gave you new knowledge and skills
  • It allowed new insight into your own beliefs and character
  • It brought attention from those around you

Now it’s over.  When the person you cared for was first diagnosed, your grieving process began, whether consciously or unconsciously. Your grieving now takes on new dimensions because you will experience a period of mourning for your role as caregiver. 

Depending on the extent of your caregiving role, you will feel a void, perhaps an all-consuming void.  At the same time, a huge weight has been lifted and you may feel a sense of relief, followed by guilt for being relieved (if the person died).  Conflicting emotions like these are to be expected. Accept them for what they are.

SUMMARY

Your role as caregiver consumes many aspects of your life.  When that role comes to an end, you may feel a sense a relief, but you will also grieve for the important role you played.  There is no right or wrong way to feel.  Everyone reacts differently to loss. Allow yourself to feel whatever your mind and body is telling you to feel, and give yourself time to work through those feelings.  It may take a few years to fully return to your life.  I thought I wouldn’t need that much time to bounce back, but I now realize that it actually does take that long. A transition of this magnitude cannot be rushed.


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