November 20, 2020

Caregivers Grief too Part 2!

Last week I began a discussion in how caregivers grieve. They grieve because they care. I also introduced you to the four stages of grief outlined by Dr. William Woodson. They are: 

  1. Accept the reality of the loss. 
  2. Process your grief and Loss
  3. Adjust to your world without your loved one in it
  4. Find a way to maintain a connection to the person who died while embarking on your own life.

I talked about the importance of acceptance of what is. Kubler Ross lists this as the last of her five stages. Woodson begins his with acceptance of what is. For example, what is real is that our nation is suffering from the Covid 19 pandemic. Or the holidays are going to be different this year no matter how much I much complain about it or wish it was different. 

This posting I want to explore the second task of grieving, processing and feeling one's loss. Feeling are both dangerous and healing. We, as caregivers, are culturized to stuff our feelings, to have a stiff upper lip, to get on with it, as big boys don't cry over what they are feeling, and girls just get too emotional. We feel the loss because we have loved and have cared. We may have feelings of guilt, the only if I could do more routine, sadness a normal expression of grief. We may feel anger at ourselves, of the loved one leaving us, the illness or circumstances that over came the one we took care of. We may also feel relief, which sometimes surprises us. 

I remember a client who shared with me his feeling after hearing that his alcoholic father had died. He felt both anger and relief. Anger because he questioned why his father choose alcohol over him, and relief because he would not longer be shamed by his jealous father. 

I also remember the film "Children of a Lesser God" where Sarah, a member of the custodian staff, who was deaf and James a teacher at the School for the deaf. James and Sarah fell in love and as the relationship grew, Sarah, who had been ridiculed and abandoned by her father because she was born deaf, was consumed by anger. She left James, and returned to her mother. Distraught, James sought her out and asked why she left. She said, "I was afraid of confronting my anger, thinking it would kill me. But it didn't."

Feelings do overwhelm us and yet are the invitation gently to explore them. Caregivers during this pandemic are experiencing normal human reactions to abnormal traumatic events. Acknowledging ones feelings and then sharing them with one who will listen to your story is the key to self-care and healing. 

 #soulofcaregiving #caregiver #compassionfatigue

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