Loss without bereavement – the carer's journey
There are many types of loss when it comes to people in our lives. It's not just death that can take a loved one away from us. Other types of losses can be just as difficult to cope with, for example when a loved one suffers from a form of dementia or suffers a brain injury. The person we love is still there, but they are different, they possibly cannot remember us, look at people they have known for years as if they are strangers, their moods and personality changed forever or on a gradual decline.
Although they are still there, the relationship has changed, as one person has become a carer and the other starts to be unable to care for themselves. This could be husband and wife, parent and child, or another close relationship. It can be very confusing, as when do you start to grieve for a family member that is still alive standing right in front of us? The frustration at wanting to turn the clock back to better times can be unbearable and leave the carer with difficult thoughts and guilt.
The not knowing what is coming next, how to deal with the forgetfulness, how to cope with the mood swings can leave the carer feeling that their life is on hold without knowing for how long, again causing conflicted feelings of guilt, anxiety, loss. Possibly unable to work, plan holidays, the next day or even a trip to the shops without huge amounts of help, organising etc. Caring for a loved one can be a 24-hour job, 7 days a week. The carer may not even get enough sleep, or even to be able to sleep at all due to worries about the future.
Carers often forget their own needs, their need for space, their need to spend time with other people, to look after themselves, and this is where counselling can help. Talking to someone about these frustrations, fears, concerns, sadness and loss can be helpful and supportive. Being able to vent their anger for what they have lost to someone who will not judge them and empathetically hear their concerns can really help people come to terms with their new reality in these stressful times. There is no magic wand that can cure their issues, but there is something very healing about sharing your thoughts, fears, frustrations and even anger with someone that will listen without judgement and support you on this journey.
One of the biggest issues a lot of carers struggle with is being able to ask someone else for help. The adage of not being able to pour from an empty cup is very true and said for a reason. Carers are no exception to this, if they are forever giving of themselves and not taking the time to recharge their batteries there will come a breaking point. Often with a bit of exploration with a counsellor, you can find out why there is a need to carry the full burden. Asking for help may then become easier, support networks can be accessed, and the carer can finally start looking after themselves which benefits everyone. Carers – the unpaid heroes - are incredible, selfless and courageous people that give of themselves constantly. They deserve some care themselves and, hopefully, they can come to see that too.
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