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The Shifting Gears of Grief

This morning on Your Caregiving Journey, Anna Stookey joined me to talk about grief, during and after caregiving. You can listen to our show via the player at the bottom of the post.

Anna shared an interesting insight about grief: It’s our shift that happens when we see a change in our world. Think about the moment you heard that your caree had just suffered a stroke. Or, the day you learned of your caree’s diagnosis. Your view of the world changed. You grieved because you had to readjust your set of unconscious expectations. Often, those expectation may relate to your view of the future, your view of our caree or your view of “bad news” (i.e., it doesn’t happen in my family). A phone call or a diagnosis changes your expectations of your world. So, you  grieve.

You continue to grief throughout caregiving, when care needs increase, when the amount of free time decreases, when help from family disappears. To cope with grieving, Anna offered two strategies:

  • Be compassionate with yourself;
  • Schedule time to grieve so that you allow, rather than fight, the emotions. (Our August 2010 show with Anna, Do We Need Emotional Pain, also offers helpful tips.)

Finally, we discussed grieving after caregiving and how that experience often differs from our expectations of what it will be like. We may be surprised that we feel relief. We may be thrown for a loop that we miss the caregiving role. We may feel shock at the loss of a caree’s physical presence. We may experience intense moments of guilt, wondering if we could have done more.

Anna referenced an insight in the book, “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore. Moore calls grief a “soul-making process,” encouraging us to show up for it.

I like that—grief is not to be hidden or underestimated or shooed away. It comes because it helps to make us. When it shows up, it’s okay to show up to meet it.

After you’ve had a chance to listen to the show, be sure to share your insights. What did you learn? What will you remember?

Additional Resources

About Denise

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I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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  1. Wonderful and insightful show! I could identify with so much of what was said.

  2. I’ve never heard the word “caree” used — and I’ve worked in eldercare for 19 years.

    On the subject matter…all that got me through a year of caregiving for my spouse was pure adrenaline. I’ve read and heard so many platitudes…take time for yourself, be kind to yourself — I’d like just one blog or book to talk about how it really is. It sucks, and you cry and you scream in the car when you are alone because you don’t want this person to die, but you know he will, and you think it’s never going to end and then when it does, it’s too soon and too final. All of it is raw emotion. And after the person dies, you don’t have a clue what to do with yourself.


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