When Caregiving Ends
"My father moved in about five years ago. He lives with my husband and me, and our world revolves around taking care of him. We prepare meals that follow his diet, go places he can navigate, plan activities he will enjoy, and transport him wherever he needs to go.
I am wondering what life will be like when he is no longer with us. Frankly, it is hard to imagine what we will do with ourselves when he is gone, as he is the center of our lives. Is there a way to prepare for this? I do not want us to be driftless. My brothers and sisters do not seem concerned about how they will feel after he is gone." - READER
You are correct in thinking that you will miss your father deeply. Right now you are pouring your energies into providing a good life for him in his final months/years. It takes a lot of time and patience to care for someone as passionately as you are.
Giving your father fulfillment during this time is a wonderful gift, because there is nothing more valuable than your time. Giving your time to care for another is an act of love. You are correct in anticipating that your grief will leave you at a loss. When someone is a part of your life in the way that your father is, their departure from this world leaves quite the void.
Accept that you are going to live through a period of time when you feel lost, sad, angry, alone, and wondering how others go on. Talk through this now with your spouse. Plan to spend some time reflecting on your father’s life and your time with him. It may be in the form of long walks in a park, fishing on a quiet lake, sitting in a church, or training for a marathon. Plan to give yourself time to reflect and grieve without regret. You are going to feel the loss and you will adapt, just like you adapted to the role of your father's caregiver.
Do not give one thought as to how your siblings may feel. Your father lives with you and you will not only lose a parent but also a member of your household. His presence will be missed in your everyday activities, like when you turn a corner, sit down to eat, grocery shop, or come home.
Right now, continue to provide a great life for your father. Take good care of your spouse, lest you grow distant while focused on dad, as your spouse will be your greatest support in the days to come. The loss will come, and you will suffer and adapt. It will be a period where you give yourself the gift of time--the time to grieve.
I wish you well on this journey called life.
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