Special thanks to Ruth Tamari for contributing as this month’s guest blogger. Although we do different work, in many ways, our work is complementary and our views are overlapping. Please check out my guest post, “Secrets of Self-Care While Caregiving” on her blog! Enjoy!
As Randall quoted, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the dealing with it.” Caregivers are courage embodied, facing whatever each day brings, appreciating the love, connection, humanness and humor amidst the moments of anxiety and fear.
Becoming a carer or caregiver to a family member is a transition that tends to happen when an illness hits or worsens and more help is needed. Similarly, losing your care partner is usually a slow transition with shades of complexity that go beyond your relationship together. As a carer, you’ve taken on an important role, a purpose, a job, and possibly career. It’s offered you a routine, structure, and a support network which means that you have these additional losses too when your family member or care partner dies.
Consider that you may already have a new purpose and work – for the moment it’s to grieve, to heal, to stay healthy, to move through this transition and find your next life purpose. It’s waiting for you to reveal it to yourself. There are many things you can do to help yourself through this period of grieving, uncertainty, unknown and re-creating your life:
1. Acknowledge your losses. Celebrate your ability to create a deep connection with someone you love and your ability to be present with them through their suffering. In order to move forward, it is important to consider what our losses are and what we are letting go of. Losses continue to reveal themselves over time. As you mourn your life purpose, identity and role, allow yourself to let go so that you will have space to find your next purpose.
2. Allow your feelings. Whatever feelings they may be – sadness, loneliness, relief, guilt, anxiety, fear, anger – give yourself permission to feel. Like riding a wave, allow these emotions to be ridden out until they reach the shoreline. Using a notepad, journal or sketchbook to express or dump your feelings is healing, helpful and effective.
3. Nurture your spirit. The emptiness and uncertainty that comes with loss can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for staying centered and connected to yourself: meditate, pray, do yoga, appreciate nature, garden, go for a walk, play with your pet, sketch, paint, collage, write poetry or journal.
4. Nourish your body. Weariness and fatigue can wrap itself around you during loss. Notice what your body is asking of you and what it wants for nourishment. You may also want to notice your energy level and when you have more or less energy during the day and plan activities accordingly – rest and restorative activities, exercise, moving your body, going for a therapeutic massage.
5. Create a schedule for yourself. With the loss of your care partner, your routine will shift drastically as will the details of your day. What time do you want to get up? What schedule do you want to create for your health + wellness plan?
6. Clear your space. Clearing space is a concrete way of letting go and recreating our lives and our identity. Recreate your space and home for yourself as you honor the memory of your relationship. What will you remove and what will you keep to remember your connection with your care partner? What are you ready to let go of now?
7. Connect and reconnect. Losing a care partner can also mean losing a care community of health professionals, community members, neighbors, and other people whom you’ve been communicating with regularly. Consider the people in your network with whom you want to stay connected or reconnect, as well as opportunities to make new friendships.
8. Reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself through this caregiving experience. You’ve probably learned a whole lot! What have you learned about caregiving and being a caregiver, about health + illness, about death + dying, about how this experience changed you, and anything else you’ve learned. The act of reflecting can shed light and insight.
9. Celebrate yourself, your work, your connection, your role with your care partner, your contribution to your family and society. Celebrate others who supported, participated, contributed, and cared for and about you.
You held time and space for caregiving. Now it’s time for you to create time and space to heal and take care of yourself.
Ruth Tamari is a Certified Professional Coactive Coach (ACC, CPCC) with the International Coach Federation and has built a practice that specializes in the opportunities created by life transitions. She built this expertise on a strong foundation of 20 years experience in the health care field where she helped people to navigate the waters of health, lifestyle, career, retirement, and life stage transitions. Throughout her career she has engaged people in the exciting process of personal growth and remains inspired by this mission.