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Working Through Grief While Caring For a Senior Loved One

Grieving is never easy, but it’s compounded when you’re trying to grieve while taking care of a senior loved one. Perhaps you have recently lost a child while at the same time coping with a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for your father. Or perhaps in the midst of caring for your spouse at home, you learned of the death of the best friend you’ve had for decades. Grief can hit all at once, seemingly paralyzing you to move forward and continue to provide care for your senior. But move forward you must. Bereavement services such as support groups can help in San Mateo and elsewhere.

Double Losses

Caring for your aging senior is hard enough without losing someone else that you love. As a caregiver, this can send you into a tailspin of additional grief and perhaps depression as you attempt to continue to provide care for your senior loved one. At the same time, you are going through your own grief process, whether you have lost your own spouse, child or even your other parent. If you have lost one parent while caring for another, this can be truly heartbreaking, not just for you as the adult child but for your surviving parent.

Often, caregivers are put in an uncomfortable situation of having to make changes in their circumstances or those of their aging parent: where to live, how to afford it all, how to maintain relationships…as well as the fear of not knowing what lies ahead, points out the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Suffering multiple losses, even if one is an impending loss, can make us feel extremely overwhelmed, which may cause an incredibly powerful defense mechanism to kick in: avoidance. While avoidance, denial, and shock may seem negative, this is your body’s way of keeping you functioning in the short term. When overloaded with multiple losses, this avoidance strategy allows us to maintain our day-to-day activities. When loss becomes cumulative, however, and others are relying on us to continue to provide care, there is an awareness that you must make a concerted effort to begin facing the reality of the loss, says What’s Your Grief.

Strategies For Getting Through

  • Make Time for Yourself: Even if just for a few moments, take time for you. Take a quick walk around the block, work in your garden, do some yoga, call a friend, or read a chapter. You need to continue to rest, eat well, exercise, and maintain social contact with others.
  • Pace Yourself: Do what you can, when you can. Prioritize your caregiving duties. Focus on daily tasks that have to get done. Set realistic goals and break large tasks into smaller chunks.
  • Ask for Help: Grieving while caring for a senior loved one is intense and overwhelming, and can easily lead to depression. Have the courage to ask for help from family members, neighbors, and friends. Hire in-home caregivers to help with the care of your aging loved one while you take time on your own to grieve your other loss.
  • Attend a Support Group: This is a safe place where you can share your feelings, get emotional and moral support, and talk with others who relate to your frustrations.

Anticipatory Grief

Sometimes when we care for a loved one who is dying, we begin the grieving process before they even pass. This is known as anticipatory grief, a form of grief that occurs before death in contrast with grieving after death, which is known as conventional grief, says Very Well Health. Dreading the impending death of your senior loved one, whether a spouse, parent or other loved one, can be associated with fear of loss of a companion, changing roles in the family, fear of financial changes, and the loss of what could have been.

Grieving before death can involve anger, loss of emotional control, and atypical grief responses, all experienced in this difficult place, this “in-between place,” where people find themselves mourning the loss of a loved one that is still here. It’s especially hard to maintain a strong facade while trying to find a balance between clinging to hope and letting go. It’s even harder when faced with the double whammy loss of another loved one. Maintaining your strength will help you get through this time so you can continue to provide the care that is needed.

Don’t be afraid to express your pain and let yourself grieve. Talk to a close friend and share your feelings openly. Seek out a support group or a therapist. Just remember, letting go does not mean you have to stop loving your loved one, even after they pass on. During this stage, you may start to find a safe place in your heart to hold memories of your loved one that will never die.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We offer many grief support group options for those who need them. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you are trying to find a way to work through grief while caring for a senior loved one. Please contact us today at 888-978-1306 to learn more.