“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly,” wrote Chuang Tzu, a Taoist philosopher
James and Friedman in their book, The Grief Recovery Handbook wrote, “Grief is the conflicting group of human emotions caused by an end to or a change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” C. L. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” Grief can arrive during any process of the care partnering journey.
Getting through the care partnering experience, making meaning, making meals, making order but with our great planning, the what-ifs and other questions creep in blanketing us like a pea-soup fog. How will my loved one process through to the end? How will I? What will life be like after the passing? Will I get PTSD? This type of grief is called anticipatory or incremental grief or loss.
There are three sets of losses: past, present, and future. The past losses include the memories of all the shared events in your lives. The care receiver sees life slowly ebbing away as regular activities, reading, writing, etc. are no long possible, losing the quality of his or her life. Losses for the care partner include the loss of memories of activities once enjoyed, loss of once vibrant social life, and the loss of future activities that were going to happen that we could no longer participate in. The other profound loss is losing your life-long partner as you enter your senior years. Compounded with this is the overwhelming responsibilities that you must continue to do, work, care for your family and yourself as you live your authentic life.
You might identify with the Twelve Freedoms of Grief I summarized provided by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD from a publication of the Widowed Person’s Service, AARP.
You have the freedom:
- to realize your grief is unique; there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
- to talk about your grief by with trusted friends or counselors.
- to expect to feel a flurry of emotions; honor these as they come and go.
- to accept feeling numb or disoriented at times
- to accept physical and emotional limitations; you may feel exhausted. You might even toss the To-Do list for a while.
- to feel moments of memories and flash backs that may be challenging but at the same time, they can provide great comfort: you have memories, so you lived.
- to develop a support system by attending support groups. Sharing an experience makes the experience more meaningful knowing that you are not alone.
- to create your personal celebration of life service if you choose to.
- to embrace your spirituality exploring your belief system and how it provides solace.
- to seek out answers but the answer is not really the goal, it is the journey you are on.
- to cherish moments, sharing them with friends, family, and loved ones.
- to maneuver your grief in your own way by embracing that grief leads to healing.
Life Lesson: Do not go it alone – sharing an experience enhances the experience. Allow yourself to experience humor, laughter, and happiness in conjunction with the process of grief.