Tips on how to accept your feelings and newfound freedoms
"It was so hard to be with my husband at the end. It was a relief when he finally died," the 80-year-old wife confesses, a month after her spouse finally succumbed to a slowly spreading lung cancer.
But then she adds, with a stricken look, "I feel terrible about feeling relieved. It's as if I wanted him to die. I didn't!"
She pauses again before saying, quietly, "Not really."
Her words reflect the uncomfortable feelings - mostly sad, sometimes mad, but a little glad — that many family caregivers struggle with after a care recipient dies and caregiving suddenly ends.
The relief is real. Few caregivers miss having to be on edge all the time, awaiting the next cry in the night, a fall or some other medical emergency. Few miss the anguish of seeing a loved one suffering and being unable to provide a remedy. With the care recipient's death comes greater freedom and the leisure time to enjoy grandchildren, old friends and hours absorbed in a book or lingering over coffee.
It doesn't happen quickly, take your time be patient with yourself. You have come through a hard and difficult journey, do what makes you feel better. Get some help if possible. There is Life after Death of a loved one and you did all you could do - it's now your turn.