Caring for a loved-one can be an exhausting and overwhelming responsibility. But, when the loved-one passes away, caregivers are often left feeling a wide range of emotions. It is not uncommon for caregivers to feel relief when the end arrives especially after a lengthy illness. It’s important to understand that this is a natural response to the end of a very heavy responsibility.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that unpaid caregivers provided about 90 per cent of long term care in 2008. About half of those caregivers reported that their own health had suffered as a result of their responsibilities.
Caregivers may feel a significant void in a once busy daily schedule once their loved one is gone. The loss of a loved one can leave a sense of grief and uncertainty in a caregiver. These emotions may take time to work through and it’s important to seek professional help if signs of depression take over.
Signs of Depression
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feeling worthless
- Prolonged difficulty participating in normal daily activities
- Feelings of guilt not related to the loss
- Confused speech
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Prolonged lethargy
It is important for former caregivers to return to activities they once enjoyed, renew friendships or return to postponed endeavors. Former caregivers should use their new found time to begin exercise programs, volunteer, learning a new skill or return to school in order to embrace their own lives again. Working caregivers can focus on their careers, relationships and focus on their own health. This process takes time but being productive can be a coping mechanism for many after a loss.