No one has died, so why is there grief? If you only associate grief with death, it is likely that you will disregard the grief that family caregivers experience due to losing a family member, not to death, but rather to illness. However, acknowledging the losses that come with having a chronically ill family member, assessing the impact and assisting to process the grief can be beneficial in relieving tension.
Loss of health due to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other serious ongoing illness means serious changes leading to other losses for the family members such as loss of companionship, freedom, and roles. Finances and future plans can be affected. Unlike the finality of a loss by death, losing a family member to illness is ongoing and can lead to different losses as the illness progresses. Grief, defined, is a reaction to significant loss. The reactions assessed from these losses may include mood instability, being overwhelmed with distressing emotions and energy depleted.
Grief processing that is carried out by people who experience the death of a loved one include rituals and journaling. The same grief strategies can also be used in situations that involve caring for a chronically ill family member. These strategies cannot be accessed though unless the grief is acknowledged and not only by you as the family caregiver. It would also be of assistance to connect and share with others in your life so they acknowledge the losses and grief that accompany your circumstances. Having extended family and friends provide condolences, understanding and support during this time can help relieve tension, similarly to the way it is helpful when extended to those who experience the death of a loved one. You may also have someone close to you who is providing care. They may be grieving and could use consoling to help in facing their circumstances and moving forward stronger from their loss. Through acknowledging and assessing, you can assist in offering a little support that can go a long way…..
Written by Eleanor Silverberg April 20, 2017