We all have times of grieving, whether it’s a loss of a job, a pet or a person close to us. Caregivers have a lot of things to grieve about. When that diagnosis happens, it’s the grief for our loved one, the loss of a way of life we may have gotten used to. Our loved one may not be dead yet, but we are already on our way down the road of grief. We may have to help our loved one grieve as well, since they will know that this diagnosis may end their life. We have to grieve and still come out fighting.

I’ve had a lot of grief in my life. My parents had heart attacks and strokes before I was out of high school. By the time I was 35, both had left this world. My only brother died when I was 50. I am one of those persons who you read about in obituaries; “she was the last of her immediate family.” Sometimes just reading those words cause me incredible sadness.

When Joe was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we had been married for 21 years. For the next 16 years I was his advocate and caregiver. By the time he died, I was incredibly tired. I had grieved so much during those 16 years, loss of the husband I once knew and loss of the hopes and dreams I had for our family, that when death finally came, I had no tears. I have to admit that during those 16 years, some of those tears was for me, feeling sorry for myself due to the extreme work of taking care of Joe and working full time to support the family. This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to turn out. Yes, I had to grieve that as well.

We all have to grieve and part of that grieving is crying. We’re all told to be strong, keep the chin up, power through. No, sometimes we have to fall apart and just cry. It’s OK to cry. It’s a release of the bottled up feelings we have. This song has been playing on the radio lately and I think it’s a wonderful message. We need to cry, to process what is happening so we can go forward with our lives. I feel like crying when I hear this song, it touches my heart because it’s so close to home for me. I hope it blesses you as well.

“When We Fall Apart” by Ryan Stevenson

Walking this Journey

You may recognize the “sign-post” that I have up. It’s the stages of grief. Anyone who has been to a counselor or therapist should know the stages. I joked with my counselor that I was so acquainted with them I knew them by heart.

You see, any loss be it a job, a move, any large changes in your life will kick in with some of these stages. We who are caregivers should be very well acquainted with them, indeed. We feel the grief when our family member is diagnosed with a terminal condition. They haven’t died yet, but we are already starting down that road of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. And while we are caring for our terminal family member, even if it’s for a short time, we may “move around” from one stage to another and back again. And just because we get to acceptance doesn’t mean we’re through grieving.

The one I got stuck in more than others was depression. That one is a killer. I read once that depression is anger turned inward. We can’t just be angry at the one we’re caring for so we stuff that anger and then feel guilty for being angry in the first place. I took a mild anti-depressant while taking care of Joe. I needed it so I could focus at my work and be functional in my life. I also went to a counselor, someone who is not judgemental who could listen to all my frustrations.

We all need an outlet for our feelings. Find someone, whether it’s a counselor, therapist or just a very understanding friend, who you can talk openly to. Someone who can listen to your frustrations and anger and not let it bother them. Someone who understands. If you need to use anti-depressants to help you get through your journey, because this is a journey, not just a little side trip off the road of life, then use them.

These stages are going to be a large part of your journey. Please find someone to help you walk through it.