The after-effects of caregiving can last for many years. As you strive to finally become yourself again, there are certain clues to watch for.
One sign is being able to quietly sit down by yourself and have thoughts of the loved one you lost that are both pleasant and unpleasant, allowing your mind the freedom to do both. Reaching the point where seeing your loved one in your mind’s eye actually puts 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 a while. 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. Take heart, my friend, 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.
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 us41books @bellsouth.net. His books, “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” “While I Still Can” and “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness,” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving .com.