Many caregivers have endured their journey in the middle while working a career and balancing care for a spouse, children, parents, extended family or even friends. The middle has become even tougher for caregivers as the world struggles to find a new normal and rebound from the effects of COVID. For some, isolation was not new to their way of life as a caregiver but for others, the added challenges only created more grief. I know I wanted to stop struggling to survive and finally live a life I was intended to live.
Although experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one, relationship, or job is part of life, this kind of grief makes it hard to see how life can continue on the flip side of grief. Feeling like you are losing yourself along this caregiving journey while you care for everyone else is normal. And even though it is very normal there is a better way to step through our journey without losing ourselves. Stop letting stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, and even anger control your emotional stability and wreck your physical health.
Men and women deal with stress in different ways but overall grief touches us all. In 2015 the ratio of caregivers, women/men was 60/40% split. During 2020, pre-COVID this ratio shifted to include more men by a 51/49% split. Even though men and women deal with stress differently, grief affects our hearts in much of the same way through inflammation. The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. We are all having to learn how to be a caregiver to some degree while supporting our own form of self-care which is why I wanted my next guest to help shed some light on what it looks like to live in the middle.
Pat Sheveland, a best-selling author and certified life coach, is living proof that a multigenerational approach in caring for your family can still give you the flexibility and freedom to do the things you want to do and live your life with greater peace and joy! Her newest book Living Life in the Middle: The Caregiver’s Guide to Healing, Hope and Harmony Through Multigenerational Living provides the steps and tools to help caregivers create a life that provides freedom and flexibility to pursue their dreams while still supporting their family.
When I took my leap of faith to leave the corporate world to care for Mom I did not realize how difficult life was going to become living in the middle of my spouse, children, and extended family. I was grieving the loss of my identity as an accountant because I felt that part of life I had worked so hard to achieve was being taken away from me. I did not expect the level of decision-making and fighting to lead me towards planning my getaway to a Buddhist monastery so I could gladly take a vow of silence.
At the beginning of living life in the middle, I could not help focusing on all that I had been losing no matter how much time and perspective I had gained along the way. When my physical and mental health began to be affected I knew I was sinking down a pit where I would not come back from. Letting Dad go prior to becoming Mom's full-time caregiver made me ask many questions to the one I felt responsible for all this turmoil in my life. "Why God? Why me? Why now?"
I must agree with Pat, grief never goes away. However, as time passes it does become more manageable and less volatile. I used to break down in tears at the site of Dad's picture or the smell of his clothing. I certainly felt more grief when I could not speak of his passing around Mom without a negative response. Grief churned my insides in such a way that it robbed me of almost every ounce of resilience and tenacity. Then one day as I cried at the kitchen table, the woman I finally accepted was no longer the mother I knew due to the progression of mixed Dementia, stepped over by me to put her arms on my shoulders and guided me to her side. No longer trying to stifle my tears I leaned into her side and cried aloud "I miss him so much." At that moment, I felt the compassionate mother I had always wanted try to console me without shedding a tear herself.
The answers I received from God may be different from the answers you might receive, should you be bold enough to ask. I do know now that through grief I have learned how to live life more purposefully and turn off the passive auto-pilot I used to coast through life on. Caregiver's grief encouraged a different kind of resilience for me but I had to allow for the old way of thinking to be drained from me before a new passion for life could refill me.
Whether you are experiencing - the loss of a loved one or the loss of your own identity as a caregiver, grief is a very powerful transformative force. If you find yourself in the middle and stuck in the pit of grief losing your way then consider the following:
1) Conserve your energy by not trying to force a smile. All that pretending 'you are fine' to hold a strong façade is draining you of valuable energy.
2) Be honest about your grieving. Let it out - don't hold it in. Open communication works better.
3) Grief increases inflammation which can worsen health problems or create them by lowering the immune system.
4) There is no set timetable for grief, especially as you care for your loved one with declining health or just lost a loved one. Take your time to grieve.
5) Be aware of your mood swings. Grief is processed in roughly 7 stages (shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, acceptance and hope, reconstruction and working through, and the upward turn) so schedule time with a therapist or grief counselor so you can process grief in a healthy way rather than self-medicating or acting outwardly towards your loved ones.
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Thank you for joining in and listening with us today. You can find more about this topic on the blog at www.jessicalizelcannon.com. I hope this gave you more food for thought and until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise