The aftereffects of caregiving can last for many years. I would like to help you recognize when you are truly on “the road to recovery.” As you strive to finally become yourself again, there are certain clues to watch for: for instance one sign is being able to quietly sit down by yourself and have thoughts of the loved one you lost in both a pleasant and an unpleasant manner, allowing your mind the freedom to do both. Reaching the point where seeing your loved one in your mind’s eye, and this vision actually putting a smile on your face again, is a great sign.
Another test of how far you’ve come in the healing process is taking a long car ride in solitude. If you can make it from point A to point B without shedding any tears, this is positive evidence that you are heading in the right direction.
As I look back on the days following my father’s death I recall a strong aversion to being alone for too long. I absolutely dreaded having to drive without my faithful companion for an hour or more. I quickly discovered that this left me with way too much time to think way too deeply. Thank God for the car radio and cheerful songs. If a sad song came on I would quickly turn the dial until I found something uplifting. Those sad songs were worse than the silence!
Have you begun to look forward to the holidays again? I have to admit that this one took me awhile. I went through three Christmases with the only decoration at my house being a single lonely wreath hanging on the outside of my front door. The good news is that for the past few Christmases I’ve actually broken out the lights and have felt somewhat festive! I am glad to say that the Christmas spirit is back! No more “bah, humbug.”
Healing from a great loss and having your life as a caregiver come to a complete stop all at the same time is devastating, but you can and will get through it. Like me, you may experience a loss of self-confidence in the midst of all this. Well, take heart my friend as, gradually, it will begin to return. In my estimation, the return of self-assurance is one of the biggest signs of healing.
Suddenly, instead of dreading sunrise, you will begin to look forward to getting up in the morning. Have patience with the world and with yourself. Grieving takes a great deal of energy. There will be a turning point when all that negative energy changes into positive vitality as you focus on living your life again.
When you begin to sense some of these changes in behavior just take them in stride. There’s no rushing this. Remember the old adage that “time is best-healer of all.” You don’t have to force these characteristics to blossom; rather, they will bloom on their own. Think of it as a warm, spring morning after a long, cold winter. Healing is on its way.
Your pastures will begin to become green again. Summer always returns.
For a decade Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father, after his father 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,” and his other books “While I Still Can” and an expanded edition of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness,” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.