Q: I was my wife’s primary caregiver for three years during her illness. While it could be difficult some days, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for her. She passed away recently, and I am struggling with how I feel and am unsure some days what to do with myself. Do you have any advice?
A: I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a spouse leaves a void that can seem overwhelming. Caregivers like yourself have been so busy caretaking it can be hard to imagine what comes next after providing such devoted care. You are in a time of transition, and it’s okay not to know exactly what to do.
Most importantly, please know that you are not alone. Many caregivers find themselves grieving and uncertain about what comes next after such a loss. Crystal Polizzotti, our Family Caregiver Program Director, offers these suggestions from the Family Caregiver Alliance, a national nonprofit caregiver support organization, to help you during this time of immense grief and uncertainty:
Establish a routine: Create a simple daily routine. Start by getting out of bed at the same time each day, taking a shower, and having breakfast. These three steps will help you get on track for the day. Take simple steps to gradually add to your routine such as exercise, calling a friend, or going out to lunch.
Create a to-do list: You likely have many things to do, especially if you are responsible for dealing with your loved one’s personal affairs and possessions. This may seem overwhelming, however, take one day and one task at a time.
Permit yourself to grieve: It’s important to give yourself permission to grieve, which means being patient with yourself and understanding that grief is far more complex than most people think because it is made up of different losses, including that of being a caregiver. Grieving doesn’t have a specific time frame.
Sharing thanks: Take a moment to reach out to those who are supporting you during this tough time. Being thankful is powerful, and it can give you a break from any lingering heaviness.
I know this is not an easy time for you. Our Family Caregiver Program can connect you with resources and support groups for those who are in a similar situation to yours. I encourage you to reach out as you may find it beneficial to talk with others who understand the caregiver role and what you are going through. You can reach them at 800-982-0890.
I wish you all the best.
Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.agespan.org for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email email@example.com. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of AgeSpan.
First published in the Eagle-Tribune.