Updated: Oct 7
If you’ve been a caregiver to someone you love, you know how encompassing the role can be. Caregiving impacts just about every aspect of your life and the changes can be profound. To devote the number of hours required to care for your relative or close friend, you probably altered your schedule, gave up hobbies, and maybe cut back your work hours or quit working altogether. What happens then when the person you care for dies and you’re no longer a caregiver? How do you return to the life you had before you were a caregiver?
Depending on the number of months or years you spent caring for your loved one, your identity may be very closely tied to the work you did as a caregiver. Although the job of caregiving can be very challenging, it’s also a role that many people cherish and find personally rewarding. When it ends, it can feel like you have no purpose or reason to get up. Filling the void of a job that consumed so much of your time and energy can seem daunting.
Here are five tips to help get you started on a new path.
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you feel. You may experience sadness, anger, guilt, grief, relief or even happiness. Acknowledge that it’s okay to just be present in the moment and take it day by day. There’s nothing wrong with feeling lost with what to do or relieved that the person is no longer here. Writing in a journal can be therapeutic and you may find it helpful to just pour your thoughts out on to paper.
Make self-care a priority. Chances are you neglected your own health to some degree to take care of someone else. There was only so much time for doctors’ appointments, so you probably cancelled some of your own. Now is the time to get your physical and mental health in order and get a thorough check-up.
Review your finances. This is another area of a caregiver’s life that often gets neglected while caring for someone else. Visit a financial advisor and create a plan for your future to ensure you have adequate resources to take care of yourself.
Think about what you loved to do when you had time to pursue your own interests and hobbies. Did you like to paint? Did you sing in a choir? Did you spend hours reading? Revisit one of your hobbies and appreciate the joy it brings. You deserve to experience some happiness in your life.
Slowly begin to establish a new schedule for yourself. Humans are creatures of habit and most of us thrive on a routine. Now that your day is completely different, spend time thinking about what you need to do to create a ‘new normal’. Will you go for a walk first thing in the morning? Will you cook yourself a delicious dinner each night? Will you spend an hour reading a book or learning something new?
Change in life is inevitable and although it may seem impossible to start over, you will get to the other side. Things will never be the same as they were before but with the support of friends and family you will adjust to life after caregiving.