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Moving on After Caring

By: Judith Cameron - Updated: 29 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Caring Care Carer Role Accommodation

Your caring role may have come to an end for a number of reasons. The person you’ve been caring for may have died or you may be a young carer who is leaving the family home to go to college or take up a job. You may be a parent who’s had to make arrangements for your disabled child to be more independent by moving them into sheltered accommodation. Whatever the reason for the change, what you will experience is enormous and you will need time readjust to your new lifestyle.

One man who cared for his wife until her death described the feeling as having lived for many years in a long, dark, narrowing tunnel and then suddenly coming into the blinding light of day. He took a long time to become accustomed to only having himself to look after, to no longer having his daily routine ordered by the care needs of his wife.

Coping When Your Life Moves On
It can be difficult to come to terms with deciding to no longer be a loved one’s carer even if you know it makes good sense.

You may have spent many years looking after a family member with a degenerating illness and have finally accepted that you can no longer manage. Maybe your own health has suffered as a result of your caring responsibilities and you have recognised that for your own welfare and that of your loved one, it is time for them to move into residential care. Or perhaps the time has come when you feel that your own future or that of your family must now take precedence over the care of your loved one. Whatever the reason for bringing your caring role to an end, you are bound to feel a mixture of relief, worry and guilt. These are perfectly natural emotions and in time you will learn to accept that the decisions you took were appropriate, that there is no right or wrong, and life is full of compromise.

Coping After a Death
Grief takes many forms and immediately after a death, you are likely to feel shock even if the person you were caring for was ill and you knew that they were dying. The reality of the death will still hurt and you may feel physically ill by its force. After a while, the immediate shock will wear off but you may still feel waves of sadness overwhelm you intermittently, where you cry uncontrollably and wonder if you will ever come to terms with the situation you find yourself in.

Feeling sadness is normal, as is feeling a level of relief, especially if your loved one had been ill for a long time. It is important to allow yourself time to grieve but you also need to think about your own life and future. If you were the person’s primary carer, you are likely to be laden by the conflicting emotions of guilt and freedom, grief and happiness. Although you loved them dearly and looked after them well, you are finally free to live your own life. Now that the caring is over, you may feel guilty about being pleased that the tremendous responsibility involved is over.

Mixed Emotions
All these feelings are common with carers. The important thing to remember is that you did what you could do. No one can be asked to do more than that. Having your own life is your right, and not something that you should feel guilty about enjoying. At the same time, you may be apprehensive about the future. If recent years have been bound up daily with the care of someone else you may feel frightened about what you are going to do with your life now.

Moving On
If at times, life seems too difficult to cope with after a death, there are organisations you can turn to. If the person you cared for is now living elsewhere, you can still visit, be involved in their lives and show that you still care about them. Eventually, you will get used to not having to organise your life around the needs of another and it will become your normality.

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