“I’ll Never Forget You. Keep in Touch”
Do You Remember?
I remember going on retreats when I was a teenager. The week before traveling, I remember the anticipation. My mind was filled with many questions. Arriving at the retreat center, I can recall how I felt meeting all the perky staff. So many things happening at once, I felt overwhelmed. I remember feeling lost, anxious, uncomfortable by the unfamiliar faces and places. Where will I sleep? How bad is the food? What will I reveal to these strangers?
As the retreat progressed, strangers became friends. There is something about those shared journeys that bound us together. One of the last retreat events was signing each other’s books or group photos with some version of “I’ll never forget you. Keep in touch.” With my dirty clothes and sleeping bag packed to leave, I distinctly recall wanting that moment and those feelings to last forever. I felt changed by the experience.
Caregiving is Emotional
For me, my father’s care journey had a lot of these same feelings. I remember the overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty about the road ahead. My head was filled with questions. I watched my parents feeling equally unsettled by the experience and the many hospital rooms and departments we encountered. We compared the hospital food, too!
I was a long-distance caregiver for my father. Mom was by his side night and day until his last breath. He spent his last week on hospice at home surrounded by family and friends. Those final days were so emotional wishing he would recover while wishing his pain would end. Our family was exhausted but together, helping each other through our final goodbyes. “I’ll never forget you. Keep in Touch.”
Pulling it All Together
Chris McLellan and I recorded the Your Future Self podcast series with the belief that the immense physical, social, financial, spiritual toll of caregiving deserves a voice. Chris said it best in this last podcast. You can listen using the button below.
Stages of Caregiver Grief and Recovery
No two caregiving journeys are the same. Yet we recognize the similarities Chris and I have experienced and heard from other caregivers. Chris came up with the caregiving stages of grief and recovery. According to Chris, every caregiver experiences these at one time or another. The order may differ.
The feeling of relief. No matter what role you play, there is some relief when it ends. It’s okay to recognize that. Remember all the nights when you slept with one eye open? The physical and emotional exhaustion? A feeling of relief that the journey is over for the care partner and the caregiver. It’s okay to recognize and own your feelings of relief. The journey is hard no matter the length of care.
Sadness and self-doubt arrive at some point in the process. Many caregivers admit that the mental movies are agonizing. What if I could’ve done this better? What if I did some tasks differently? “If I had just made that decision like if I had stayed that first night of hospice, they probably wouldn’t have given him the pain medication,” said Chris. Our minds try to make sense of the physical, social, financial, and spiritual issues of caregiving.
Then we come to accept our reality. Our caregiving capes are limited. We can only do so much. Our care partner’s life is predestined. There is a limit to what we can do. Take comfort and joy knowing that showing up was enough. “It’s that morning you wake up and you say, you know what, job well done no matter what,” said Chris.
Thank you for Listening
Chris and I want to thank you for listening to our stories and sharing yours. We extend a special thank you to our podcast guest attorneys Amanda and Ryan Singleton of Singleton Legal in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Your generosity to share with us and our listeners is priceless. We treasure your friendship and commitment to helping others.
Tell Your Story
“Your Future Self” will reveal itself as you tell your caregiving story. Give voice to your journey and share it with those who continue to travel this road. In addition, it is time for you to focus on the physical, social, financial, and spiritual dimensions of your recovery. We wish you abundant health and happiness as you define Your Future Self. “I’ll never forget you. Keep in Touch.”