As any family caregiver knows, the loss of a loved one starts long before he or she actually passes away. Especially in cases where the loved one has developed Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, families often feel that they are losing their loved one a piece at a time as they slip away into memory loss and oftentimes become a shell of their former selves.
When grief begins before someone dies, it is called “anticipatory grief.” This grief is often hard to describe because the loved one may still be physically present. Feelings may be confusing, but the pain of loss is real. During this time, many family caregivers are dealing with what is called “ambiguous loss” because the person sitting in front of them may not be the person they’ve always known.
If you are a family caregiver of someone who you feel is slipping away, here are some things to keep in mind as you deal with anticipatory grief.
Your Feelings of Anticipatory Grief is Normal
Because it may be hard for others to understand your level of grief, you may feel as though your feelings are unnatural or excessive. This is not the case. Feeling the pain of grief because your loved one is not who they once were is a completely normal human emotion. Anticipatory grief is real heartache and it is something that many family caregivers are dealing with on a regular basis. Everyone may have a different experience when it comes to his or her own grief, and that is also OK. It’s important for caregivers not to judge themselves too harshly for being sad over the loss of someone they love.
Talk About Your Grief
Caregivers often feel overwhelmed and as if they are a burden on others if they speak about their experiences, but it’s always a good idea to share your grief with a trusted friend or counselor. During this time, you may be feeling the loss of support from your loved on as he or she is overcome by a disease, so there may be relief in finding another source of support. If you have friends or family members who have been in a similar situation, seek them out for advice. It’s always nice to know that someone has been through the same type thing you are experiencing. However, if you feel like you are experiencing more than grief and are feeling depressed, it’s important to seek out professional help.
Don’t Forget Self-Care
It’s easy for caregivers to forget to care for themselves as they go about the daily routine of caring for someone else, but as you are grieving it can be helpful to remember to do the things that make you happy and relaxed. Exercise, healthy eating, and meditation can all be essential elements of self-care, especially for caregivers. Make sure you are taking the time to take a walk, call a friend, or even indulge in some self-pampering because it’s easier to care for someone else when you feel that your needs are also fulfilled.
Caregiving can become overwhelming, but family caregivers are often the last people to ask for help. Anytime you are dealing with grief, even the slightest tasks can seem daunting. If friends and family are unable to assist, it may be time to consider the services of an in-home caregiving service such as 24/7 Nursing Care. We place professional caregivers and nurses in the homes of our clients, which can provide a feeling of comfort and familiarity for your loved one and a sense of relief to the family caregiver. Give us a call at 855-Nurse44. We look forward to serving you.
“I Love My Dad, but I Feel So Sad”. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.caringnews.com/en/187/1/599/I-Love-My-Dad-but-I-Feel-So-Sad.htm