I got hit with a question the other day that I never imagined being asked by an ex-caregiver (although I will always believe that once a caregiver, always a caregiver). The question was, "I visit my husband's grave at least once a week, do you think that's too much?"
If you really think about it, how much is "too much?" This woman's husband has been gone for more than two years now. The only thing that came to mind was to ask her, "Does it make you feel better?" Her answer was "Yes!"
This really got me thinking about my own situation, which is, of course, different than hers. I didn't bury my father in a cemetery. Rather, his ashes are with me in my home office on the top shelf of a bookcase. Many times when I'm thinking of him, I walk by, reach up and tap his urn as if I'm giving him a "high five." So, how strange is that? Is it any more peculiar than going to a cemetery week after week? I have never felt an eeriness about keeping his urn close by. Well, maybe I did at first, but very soon I grew to find comfort in its presence.
Please don't ever forget that everyone grieves differently. It's very likely that the results of the first few sojourns to your loved one's final resting place may not be what you hoped for. It may take some time to achieve the comfort you so desperately need. Be patient and give it a chance. Should you reach the point where you literally find some solace, there's nothing wrong with visiting as often as you please.
However, if it's making you an emotional wreck, don't force yourself to make this journey out of some imagined obligation. I am sure this is not what your loved one would want for you and I'm also certain they would understand if you said your goodbye's or personal conversations from the comfort of your own home.
The woman I spoke of earlier told me that she purchased a memorial bench and had it placed at her late husband's graveside. It has his name engraved on a plaque attached to it. This is where she goes to sit. She claims that on the days when the weather cooperates, she even brings herself a lunch. She finds these occasions to be very calming. I would only become concerned if she were to get caught up in a routine where these visits are stopping or slowing down her emotional recovery.
If you are making frequent graveside visits and, instead of comfort you find yourself grappling with bouts of depression, you may not be ready yet.
There are many people who wish they could visit their loved one's grave sites, but live out of state or just too many miles away. If this is your situation, I believe you already know the right answer. It's deep inside you. It is just the matter of listening to yourself. Search for a place of solitude; maybe a park or even a corner of your backyard, if you have one. Make that your place to grieve and talk to your loved one. You might even erect come sort of small marker on which you may have the name of your loved one inscribed. If it helps you, do it!
Throughout all the speaking events I've done over the years, this is only the second time someone has thrown a question at me that actually floored me. (The first one was of a subject matter even darker.) I apologize to those of you that find this subject a bit uncomfortable, but I believe it's a matter that needs to be discussed or that sweet woman would never have asked me.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His newly released book, "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness," can be found at www.common sensecaregiving.com.