If you were writing a book, you would create an outline of what each chapter would be – themes, plot twists, crisis resolutions. While we often talk about our lives as books and chapters, we don’t always take that same disciplined approach so that each new phase can flow from the one before. Here are some thoughts for that “next chapter”, when you are no longer a caregiver.
I received a thank you card from a Nancy’s House guest who lost her husband to ALS. A friend had commented on how well our guest was doing. She is certainly experiencing grief, but has a clear sense herself in the process and knows she will heal. She said, “I took the lessons of self-care and ran with them.” The skills she utilized as a caregiver gave her the framework to accept her grief and mourning and write her next chapter.
If you have made taking care of your physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs a priority during your loved one’s illness, then you have established a habit that will continue to serve you well.
Help for financial planning for a caregiver is available. Start with a plan so that decisions can be made during a period of calm, not crisis. You can find a useful guide at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local library all have many useful guides to help you make the choices that will take care of you now and later.
Emotional and physical can overlap. Regular exercise, even brisk walking, improves emotional health and well-being. But you also need exercise for physical well-being. Create a schedule, utilizing friends, family or other support people, so that you can exercise at least every other day.
In utilizing those people for support, you are also starting to build your own support network, the people you can trust and talk to, when your loved one is gone. You may need to add an extra person, perhaps a paid professional who can help you sort out the guilt/loss/grief/love that you feel, or your friends may be able to do that. What is most important is to develop the habit of asking for help.
Your spiritual needs may feel in flux at this time. Your resources you have always used may bring comfort or may seem inadequate. Simple breathing meditation or guided meditations available on CD or internet may help you come to a place of calm that allows you to look for next steps. Find a safe place to explore your thoughts and feelings about the meaning of life and love, the existence of a greater power, your place in the world. There are no right or wrong answers. There is only the need to find what fits for you.
It is an inevitable truth of caregiving that, in most cases, it will come to an end. It is important that we find the guidance and support we need so the next chapter will flow more easily.