Chapter 14: Bereavement

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Bereavement is possibly the most trying period you will have to go through in the process of caring. Before your loved one’s death, you might have told yourself how relieved you would be when the ordeal of dying and the funeral were over. But now the funeral is over, and you may not be relieved. You are bereft, adrift, depressed, and anxious.

The Reality of Grief

As your loved one declined week by week, day by day, you were saddened, but you had a role, a function. Now there are no doctors to call, no professional caregivers to interview, no nursing homes to inspect. There is no assignment, no crisis to distract you. There is emptiness. One of the greatest losses a caregiver can face is the loss of purpose. For many, caregiving has been a long and excruciating task and yet a fulfilling one that gave additional meaning to life.

In theory, the death of an elderly parent should be relatively easy for you to accept, a loss much less calamitous than that of a child or a spouse. It is, after all, the natural order of things. Most children do come to terms with the death of their parents. But it is hardly as easy as it seems theoretically for many reasons, including the feeling of helplessness at the loss of the person who may have been at your side all your life, much longer than your spouse or children.

Some survivors have to struggle with very different emotions, such as guilt over not making peace with a parent who was distant or even cruel, or even guilt because they feel relief that the alienated parent is gone.

During the grief process, many people are surprised to experience the strongest feelings they have felt in their lives–numbness, sadness, loneliness, guilt, shock, anxiety, depression, and agitation among them.

While each person’s journey of grieving is unique, there are some common emotional expressions of grief. These include sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt and blame, anxiety, and finally relief. The key is finding safe and acceptable ways to express grief so that you can move through the process, in your own way.

Review additional chapters of Stages of Senior Care:

Previous: Chapter 13: Funeral Services  
Next: Chapter 15: Complicating Ailments and Issues