For so many of us, our old life ended when we became a caregiver. What happens when our time as a caregiver ends?

My mother just passed away and I’m at a loss. I’ve been taking care of her for seven years, my life revolved around her. Don’t know what to do. – Michelle S.

Taking care of someone is the most fulfilling, purposeful thing we can do. And when it is over, it’s a real struggle to find real purpose. First, we need to take care of the things we have neglected at home and in our own health, etc. Then ???? It’s hard to adjust, for sure, and want to find something meaningful. I have done some volunteering and just trying to adjust to “normal” but so much seems frivolous. We can sure all relate. Hang in there, everyone! – Paula D.

I took care of my father for many years.. he’s gone now. What should I be doing? I have trouble with being kind to myself, I’ve been remembering to laugh which is a big start. – Barbara M.

I have tons of things I should be doing but also feel like I can’t move forward without him. – Elizabeth L.

I try to listen to what my body and mind tell me. Some days are very hard. Even though there are many things I want to do, I find I’m not ready yet to do them. Too emotionally drained and tired. But I’m improving. Started playing piano again after many years. – Carl U.

I gave up my job in radiology to care for my husband 24/7 a year and a half ago. He passed away at age 54 six weeks ago.I find myself trying to still do for him thinking he is at a hospital waiting for me to go see him and that he is coming home soon. He was sick with colon cancer for 13 years so the last three years that was the pattern. Home, hospital for two or three weeks and back home rehabbing till the next crisis would occur. I just cannot find my way to move forward and pick up where I left off before when he was healthy and we lived normal lives. Not many jobs open in my field now either so I feel really doomed… – Julie J.

I took care of my sister for three years… Lived with her as well.. She passed away in December, and I still feel guilty, that I could have done more for her.. I find myself now, just sitting around, or watching TV.. It’s like I am totally useless. I try to keep busy, but then the guilt comes back, and the fact that I am not depended on any more… My sister was 58 when she died, I am 50… I had no help at all, taking care of her.. I have pretty much gone into a very deep depression, and really have no one to talk too, that understands… – Jennifer G.

I was with my husband, while he passed for over a yr. with no help and spent every minute taking care of him. A trip to the store seemed like a vacation but reality would slap you in the face quickly, for too long away always sent me back to him in the floor from a fall or outside sitting on the steps where he should not have been. he was smart, he knew when i was going to the store and pretended to be asleep. I was in a rush to do everything I did and sleep was a luxury. When he passed away I left the hospital and went home, I sat on the sofa and later that day I realized I had been there on that sofa alone with no brain activity of any kind. I got up, tried to think what was next and then sat back down. The next few days were a blur and my ability to think quietly found it’s way back to me. i went about the next few days still in a hurry to everything and regardless of how many times I told myself to slow down I could not. I did not know how to sleep through the night or how to enjoy anything and laughter was hard for me. I could not remember laughing. it has been a while now and I have moved on with life but I never for one day forget how hard being a care giver is and what one goes through to bring the end of a person’s life an easy one. I know now that I will never remarry because I cannot do this again. it is the hardest thing I ever had to do. To stand by the bed of a man I was married to for 40 yrs. and hear him take his last breath, he died quietly and no one was there but me and that is how I promised him it would be. Life now is really good and no more trips in a hurry for me. Care takers are a special breed and there is a place for all of them in heaven, and it it is not care taking. – Vicky N.

I took the journey with my mom for eight years and she passed away in March. I am LOST. My mom is everywhere and I miss her smile and her kindness. – Susan Z.

I’m gonna tell you what my brother told me standing @ our mother’s grave site: “you better find a way to resurrect yourself.” after 13 years in another city and state…i’m still in recovery, still resurrecting myself..Quiet your mind. Take your time…go with the process of grieving and by all means trust God. – June W.

Your advice

As much as you can and are able, focus on being kind to yourself FIRST. – Saamia D.

I’m going to start small with a little vacation, it’s a start. – Michelle S.

The best advice I can give you is LIVE! Enjoy your life! – Vickie B.

We cared for them and when they pass away it leaves an empty space. Do things in their memory, be Active in your life. LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE and CARE. – Barbara L.

Put your caring skills to good use, but this time, care for you – Saamia D.

My suggestion is – when you are ready – find something fun with a little bit of structure. I like crafts and I am also a musician. I started to learn blacksmithing. There is something about creating an object with your own hands that reconnects you with things in a way I have a hard time explaining. – Bob B.

I do artwork, I write…many things I had no time for. – Dee S.

Could you maybe do some volunteer work at a hospital? as many or as few hours a week as you can handle. it probably help make you feel useful again. and of course, it looks good on a resume wink emoticon. I was caregiver for my disabled spouse until we separated 2 1/2 years ago (later divorced :(), I was basically forced out…. have move back in with my family, get part time jobs (until I can get to full time)… but anyways, I have found that just getting out going to work (or a volunteer position), is one of the things that has helped me the most. It allows me to forget things for a few hours, to get out of myself. and helps me to be able to move forward, even if it’s just 1/2 baby steps at a time (and trust me, there’s plenty of steps backwards, too… I have felt sometimes like I’m doing the cha-cha!!) – Rebecca H.

I promised myself after losing my mother in December… I am going to live my life and make everyday count. After taking care of her the past 11yrs and 4yrs ago I quit my job to be home with her. So now it’s all about me… Making sure I stay healthy, wise, and working. Along with having a meaningful relationship since I had to put that on hold as well. So hope you find what makes you happy and worth it! – Delphine C.

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