Relief after Caregiving
You cared for your spouse night and day for months or even years. It was a full-time job without pay or vacation time. Your heart ached as you watched your spouse suffer. After all, you loved—and still love—him or her with all your heart. Hence, you were shocked that when your spouse passed away, your first feelings were those of relief. Was that a normal reaction?
The simple answer is, yes. During the period of illness, many caregivers go through what we commonly term "anticipatory grief." This is when you feel the effects of loss before your loved one has left your presence physically. Also during this time of illness, there is stress and strain on the caregiver physically and a constant drain on them mentally and emotionally. This is because you are anticipating the loss of your loved one and you are constantly thinking about how things could have been done differently. I know many caregivers who use baby monitors during this time to keep an unseen eye on their loved one. As a result, many times, the caregiver does not get a lot of rest because they are constantly listening with the "parent ear" to each sound that their loved one makes, even down to each individual breath, hoping that it is not their last.
When the loved one is gone, there may be a sense of rest from caring for that loved one on an ongoing basis, as you provided for their every physical need. That loved one may have expected you to be available 24/7 for the emotional and mental aspects that they were experiencing, with all of the accompanying twists and turns. They may have expected you to listen to questions that plagued their mind. Perhaps they wanted to communicate to you their unresolved life issues, for you to assist them with finding closure if at all possible. They also did not want to die alone, which required a constant presence.
So, from sheer exhaustion, there is a sigh of relief when the loved one passes. But also in the spiritual sense, there is relief. Relief that they are safe where no illness can ever touch their physical bodies again. Relief that they rest in the presence of the only One who can and will provide true peace from the struggle and tribulations of this life. Furthermore, there is an ongoing sense of relief that you did the best you could at the time for your loved one and that there is a Hope and a Promise that one day you will be reunited. When that day comes, neither of you will be inhibited by illness and questions of why, but you will be content to rest in the arms of the One who said, in John 10:10, that He came to give life and life more abundantly.
Revelation 21:4 reminds us, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
—Saundra Yates, Bereavement Coordinator/Chaplain (Mount Airy Office)
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more info, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Tags: Grief Support