Specific Situations > Extreme Caregiving

How to be former caregiver

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My husband lived with congestive heart failure for 17 years. Whenever we saw his primary doctor, she would say hevwas a miracle because people don't tend to stick around for that long. He had a pacemaker, was a prostate cancer survivor for almost nine years, had been intubated after a severe infection last spring, had kidney issues and fistula surgery last fall, and was going for pericentesis every week for about two months. He was feeling more poorly than usual, went to hospital, was diagnosed with the flu on top of everything else, and didn't come home. In an instant, I went from full-time work outside the house to stay at home worker, primary wage earner, and caregiver to widow.

I am taking care of myself as best I can; I have to pay my own insurance so it's tough on the budget and I don't go to the doctor much to avoid the copay. However, as has been said on a few other threads, I have mourned for years now. I am happy that my Christopher is not in discomfort or sick anymore and that he is with God, but I am sad and lonely without him. I am irritated at him because he had once said that he didn't want me to be alone if he were to go and I scoffed at the idea. Now that I am not filling the wall calendar with trips to the doctor and juggling my work around them, I find myself pondering the potential of trying to connect with someone. But I feel too ... scarred? empty? exhausted? afraid? I am not particularly social in that I am very much an introvert. My husband understood and accepted that about me. It's hard to think there is anyone else could.

Is it typical to feel so conflicted after caregiving ends? My first husband died suddenly so this is my first experience with caregiving.

Arneal - I found myself in a similar situation. My late wife’s illnesses forced me to balance work, taking care of the house, raising the kids and caring for her all at the same time. It was a nightmare, as you know.

After she died, a good friend of mine remarked, “You must be so terribly busy now.” In point of fact, I was not – I was already taking care of the kids and doing everything else. With the time required to care for my wife now freed up, I had all kinds of spare time – compared to what it was previously.

To fill my feeling of emptiness and allay my fear, I forced myself to get out of the house and try new activities and made a concerted effort to make new friends. I don’t think I am quite as introverted as you describe yourself but it was still difficult to make myself go out alone to have a meal or show up by myself at a meeting or event. But I did it as I knew I had to build a new life with the emphasis on ‘build’. No one else could do it for me.

I’m certain doing so helped me overcome the negative feelings you described rather quickly and helped me to regain my footing and rejoin the human race.

Good luck and best wishes - Mike

Yes, it is normal to feel conflicted after being a caregiver.  Just remember, no decisions have to be made today.  Give yourself time to figure out what you really want to do.  If you want to date that's great, if not that's great too.  And some people date and then decide they aren't ready and that's ok . 

Thank you both. I think it was just the emptiness of the day ... today marks officially three months. It's strange but I agree with you, Mike -- I am so appreciative of the gym because I have met some great new friends there, people who are supportive about life in general, not just because I am a widow. I haven't gone out like to a restaurant alone yet (probably because I am doing this boot camp at the gym  ;D) but since I am an only child anyway, I think that will be okay. I also know of a widow in the neighborhood and I am thinking of calling her to go have coffee or something one day this week.

I think about what dating would be like, but I am learning to live for me again. The rest will come in due time, as God wills. No worries (well, maybe a few  :D).

I don't know if the caregiver in me ever left me.  I was a caregiver for my first husband for 18 years and a physical therapist for 26 years.  My first husband has been gone over 6 1/2 years.  I still tend to be someone who looks out for people, though.

I also found that after my first husband died, I had so much time on my hands that I didn't know what to do with myself.  I found, though, that the first 4 or 5 months were spent heavily grieving and sad and taking care of me was what I needed to do.  I found the precursor to this board and lived on it, too.

Hang in there.  Hopefully, we all find ourselves again in due time.



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