When Caregiving Ends, Rest Your Mind & Body Before Moving On
When you suddenly find yourself at the end of your time as a caregiver, you may think you need to jump right back into your life. Instead, make an active decision to STOP.
It’s a much healthier choice to take some time for yourself before you return to
your normal work or line up new job interviews. You’ve just spent months, most
probably even years, putting your loved one’s well being before your own. Before
making any immediate decisions about your future, take and give yourself the gift
of time to rest and recover physically, mentally and emotionally.
You may be wondering just how long it might take to readjust to your life after your role as caregiver is over. Unfortunately, there is no one answer; the time it takes is different for everyone. Your financial situation may require you to return to work sooner rather than later. Or you may have other family obligations that force you to jump back into your regular life more quickly than you anticipated. It could take months … or it could take years!
No matter what, it’s important to remember to go easy on yourself and give yourself the time and the grace period you need to move forward at your own pace.
Once your caregiving is done, the void you’ll feel will probably be immense. It may be laced with relief, another trigger for unnecessary guilt. You may not have the luxury of giving yourself some time off, but if at all possible that’s exactly what you should do.
When my mom passed away, I had to spring into action as the executor of her will, in addition to saving my own business in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown of 2009. It was brutal, but in many ways, the “busy-ness” was a saving grace in terms of keeping me from dwelling in my pain. Nonetheless, I wish it had been otherwise.
If I had another chance at relaunching after caregiving, I would give myself six months to “do nothing” and not leap back into the craziness of life. I wouldn’t make any important decisions, but would rather take one day at a time and give myself the time to rest and adjust organically, rather than trying to force my recovery.
Three Small Steps You Can Take When Caregiving Ends
Create Ceremony to Mark the End of Your Caregiving
Acknowledging the end of caregiving with a simple, personalized ceremony
can help you with closure, and mark the start of your next stage, unleashing
renewed energy for yourself and your life.
Start by lighting a candle and taking a few deep breaths to center yourself. On a notepad, write a letter to your loved one. Get all of your emotions down on the paper – the good, the bad and the ugly. When you’re finished, you can tear up the letter, throw it away, or even burn it.
Go back to your notepad and write a letter to your future self, one year from now. Write out all the things you can imagine yourself doing (and feeling!). Take a few moments to visualize yourself working, traveling, sharing family time – whatever you choose. When you’re finished, extinguish the candle.
Take Stock of Where Things Stand With YOU
Picking up the pieces and moving forward may be more difficult than you imagined. More than anything, you need to remember to just go with the flow, be gentle with yourself and allow plenty of time for grieving. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. With goals, it’s a good idea to focus on one thing at a time, and to build in small steps that are achievable.
Even if you don’t feel like thinking about it, it’s good to know where you might need to work on improvements in key areas such as your physical, emotional and financial health, as well as your relationships with family and friends. Take our self-administered quiz to help you think about each of these areas in a realistic manner. Once you see where you are having the most difficulties, you can decide when and how you might like to approach addressing that area.
Double Down On Self-care When Caregiving Is Done
Change is part of daily life, but it can be earth shattering when your caregiving role has ended. Make time for yourself. Go outside and soak up nature. Move your body. Give yourself the time and space to heal without pressuring yourself.
Overall, take it easy and allow yourself to ease into this new phase of your life. There can be a great deal of stress in the “relaunch-your-life” stage of caregiving (even though stress and anxiety tend to be strongly associated with active caregiving duty).
Finally, nothing can change the fact that your loved one has passed. You need time to grieve and process this change. There are no doubt many, many details that need to be wrapped up. Then one day, the inevitable questions pop into your head, “What now?” “What next?”
Reminding yourself that the process is different for everyone and that it takes time (sometimes quite a bit of time!), can help you to calm yourself and work on taking one day at a time. Time is your friend. Use it to heal and rediscover your own unique balance.
Author, Speaker, Founder
AMI and TheCaregivingJourney.com
Debbie Howard is a former caregiver who served as both long distance and live-in caregiver during her Mom’s dying days in South Carolina, while running her Tokyo-based market research consultancy.
With the launch of AMI and TheCaregivingJourney.com in 2016, Debbie combined her caregiving experience with her 40 years as a communications and market research pro to support caregivers in navigating their caregiving journeys with more grace and ease. especially when it comes to self-care.
Today, she leads workshops and blogs on this topic, and helps companies develop programs to support their employees in balancing their caregiving responsibilities at home with their work.
Her book, The Caregiving Journey: Information. Guidance. Inspiration, is available on Amazon.