Dear Mary
Grieving for nine years. Really?

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Dear Mary,

My aunt died 9 years ago and my cousin is still greatly grieving the loss of her mother.  She is always very sad and I really don’t know what to do to help her.  My cousin Jane took care of my aunt for all 9 years and is just “lost today”.   I think this going on too long. Can you give me some ideas on how I can help her?

Nancy

Hi Nancy:

Grief is a very tricky topic to tackle.  I believe that we all deal with grief in our own ways and on our own time schedules.  I grieved the loss of my parents for years.  I think for at least the first couple of years after their deaths, I was just numb.  I went through the motions of living but I never felt alive.

I still grieve them today and expect I always will.

One of the ways that even today helps me deal with their deaths is that I can separate grieve from guilt.  I did the best I could, based on the resources available to me to help them.  I miss them dearly every day, but I have no guilt.   I still talk with my Mom and Dad virtually every day and they are often in my dreams.  Sometimes when I go for my walks, I open my hands and pretend that my Dad is on my left and my Mother is on my right, holding my hands.  It sounds silly but it makes me feel like they are with me.   I have many pictures of them (even when I travel) and when I hear “their songs”, my heart is full of love.

Here are a couple of ideas that you can try to help Jane:

-Remember that this is her grief, not yours.

-Allow her to deal with it in her own way, on her own schedule.

-Be patient with her as she talks about her Mom and how she is feeling.

-Hugs are always welcomed – sometimes words are not.

-Be a good listener.

-Don’t pass judgment.

-With a kind heart, offer suggestions.

-Suggest that she go to a support group or seek individual help.  Check with your local hospice to see what they offer.

-Suggest she get a medical check-up and let the doctor know about her grieving.  Perhaps a doctor could recommend further help.

When my parents died, my role as their primary caregiver ended.  This created a huge hole in my life.  I had to re-invent my life and my life’s purpose. It took me many years to re-invent myself and I am still a work-in-progress.  What do we do with our lives now that we are not caregivers anymore?  Working through our grieve is only part of what caregivers have to do.  Finding new meaning to our lives, I believe is part of our grieving process.   Often former caregivers struggle with what to do and what new roads to go down. Many times, there is not even a road map for us to follow.  However, what is for certain is that these new roads are paved on their own schedules and are full curves and bumps that are both scary and exciting at the same time.

You can best help your cousin by letting her know that you care about her and her future. Let her know that whatever new roads she goes down, she will always have your love.

 

Mary

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Caregiving Matters

Mary is a daughter. She also Chairs our charity. Mary has also held Director roles on three other boards, most recently with The Palcare Network of York Region.

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