In November of 2020, my beloved husband died. His death brought 23 years of caregiving to an end.
I cared for three generations of family members, my mother, who had vascular dementia, my twin grandchildren, whose parents died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes, and my husband, who was paraplegic. Our daughter was the mother of the twins and grieving for her while raising our grandkids is the hardest thing I ever did.
Caregiving was woven into every thread of my life. The caregiving reach was far and wide. I’m a freelance health and wellness author. Since I couldn’t change my caregiving role, I changed the focus of my writing, and wrote books for family caregivers. Each book comes directly from my life.
Watching my husband’s health fail was intensely painful. My husband died on a Saturday. On Sunday I ordered a new dining table for his former bedroom. I shocked myself. Was I a crass, unfeeling person? Had my mind slipped a cog? Was I going crazy? I write to learn and figure things out and, as I often do, compiled a list to show my thinking.
- I did everything I could for my husband and could not have done more.
- I have been grieving for him for years.
- My anticipatory grief has been intense, especially these last few months.
- Research findings suggest that post-death grief is shorter if you let yourself feel anticipatory grief. I think this will happen to me.
- Sometimes I feel grieved out.
- I have planned for this time consciously and unconsciously.
- There is a plethora of medical equipment here and seeing it makes me sad.
- Others could benefit from this equipment.
- My husband would want me to be happy.
- Before he died, we said all we needed to say.
- His bedroom was a sad place, a place of pain, and I want it to be a happy place.
- My husband respected my financial planning/restraint. I ordered the dining table to take advantage of Black Friday sales.
- I will be living alone and, though my husband will always be part of my soul, want this to be my space.
- Planning for a future shows I have faith in the future.
- I will always love and honor my husband.
- I need to take better care of myself, something I haven’t done this year.
Your caregiving may be coming to an end or have ended. You may wish to use the list approach I used. At this time of life, a true crossroads, we need to be kind to ourselves. Before my husband died, I pursued new interests—doodle art and Japanese Enso painting. (Enso means circle in Japanese.) The artwork became a book for tweens and teens, Doodle Art: Bringing Back Your Smiles.
When caregiving ends, we need to give ourselves time to get our bearings. We need to give ourselves time to recover from shock. We need to give ourselves time to identify our feelings. We need to give ourselves time to plan a new life. We need to give ourselves time for renewal. Most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves.
Love will guide us and lead the way.
I so appreciate your article. My husband of almost 48 years died from a stubborn brain tumor in March, 2020, after a 4 year battle with kidney cancer. I moved my desk into his office shortly after he passed away but left many of his things on the walls. I like to say we are both inhabiting his office together. Before that our severely disabled daughter passed away unexpectedly at the age of 34 in October, 2018. I am now free to grieve both and wrote a book about our daughter. Still learning to take care of myself! It feels a bit strange.
Thank you for sharing this article and your personal experience. I can relate to many of the feelings you described after my father passed away and my care taking for him ended. I wish I would have this sooner.
Beautifully written article on life after caregiving. I experienced many of the emotions expressed in this article after dad died in December of 2011.