In a previous blog post on family caregiver grief, we discussed coping with the loss of your loved one and/or care receiver. Moving through the grief process, it is common for family caregivers to feel adrift as they try to move forward, redefine their purpose, and ascertain who they are now. Inventing and adjusting to a “new normal” may take time. Consider being kind and taking good care of yourself (physically and mentally), seeking guidance from friends and professionals, staying connected with others and remaining active going forward. The Family Caregiver Alliance offers suggestions to help family caregivers transition back into daily life one day at a time:
What to do with your time – Previously, time may have been structured primarily around caregiving and other responsibilities. Developing and embracing new routines may provide a sense of comfort as they become more familiar, comfortable, and fulfilling. Take the time to reflect and contemplate decisions for the future (e.g., returning to work, volunteering, planning activities you could not do before) – You may want to delay any major decisions such as moving, changing jobs, or entering new relationships. You might utilize the skills developed as a family caregiver such as time management to achieve new goals such as learning a new skill, returning to college/university, or taking online courses.
Tackling loneliness – Family caregivers may experience loneliness with the loss of their loved one and an emptiness/void stemming from the loss of their caregiver identity after their care receiver passes away. Rebuilding and creating new social connections and emotional supports can help combat isolation and loneliness. Social connections and emotional supports may include friends, family, peers, religious organizations, among others. These supports may provide comfort in knowing people are there if you need them to get through the good and the stressful times. Consider connecting with others through in-person or online grief support groups, having coffee with a friend or neighbor, participating in religious activities, or volunteering your time and skills to help others.
Rediscover activities and interests – Returning to activities and interests that mattered before taking on your caregiver role may offer a way to slowly re-enter life again. Identify new activities or hobbies that you may enjoy and will energize you. You could try exercising your body and mind through physical activities (e.g., walking, yoga, tai chi) and mental stimulation such as taking a class, reading, puzzles (e.g., crosswords or Sudoku), or by learning a new skill or hobby. Consider exploring ways to incorporate socializing with friends, family, and others through adult planned events and activities from organizations such as the YMCA or Department of Aging. You might also consider planning travel, either on your own or through an organization.
- When Caregiving Ends: https://www.caregiver.org/resource/when-caregiving-ends.
- Taking Care of Yourself & Managing Time After Being a Caregiver: https://www.thememorycenter.com/taking-care-of-yourself-managing-time-after-being-a-caregiver.
- Social Support – Tap This Tool to Beat Stress: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/social-support/art-20044445.
- How to Find a Hobby: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/how-to-find-a-hobby.
- Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org.
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