Adjusting to life after caring
Taking care of your relative or friend may have been your focus and it can often be a shock not to have those responsibilities any more. There will be many activities that have been a part of your daily routine that you don’t need to do anymore.
You may suddenly feel a lack of purpose, now that you don’t have someone to look after any more. Or you may feel relieved. Don’t feel guilty if you do – it’s a natural reaction to the pressure being taken away.
It’s likely you’ll have shared experiences with the person that no one else knows about. If they’ve died it can seem as if part of your own life has disappeared too. Looking at old photos or writing down your memories can help bring those times to life again for you.
You might find that people who had always asked you about the person no longer know what to say. They may talk about everything except your relative or friend who’s died. This could be upsetting, or you may be grateful.
Think about your experience of caring as a whole, the good parts and the bad. This may help you to understand it as a role with a clearly defined start and finish.
There may be some aspects of caring that you’ll miss. Perhaps you liked having company every day and felt good about being able to comfort your relative or friend. You may have felt proud of being able to help them live the last part of their life in a place they wanted to be. Or you may have felt stressed that you weren’t doing a good enough job. How you coped will have depended on your personality as much as events that took place. Now more than ever, don’t be too hard on yourself.
As your relative or friend’s carer, it’s likely that you won’t have had much time to spend with friends. But you’ll have had regular contact with nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals involved in your relative or friend’s care.
You’ll probably have built up relationships of trust with many people who you won’t necessarily see any more, for example hospital staff. This can be a shock, and you may feel quite lonely and isolated.
Some carers find that they want to continue these relationships, for example by returning to the hospice as a volunteer. It’s recommended that you don’t return to the hospice until a year after your relative or friend has died as it may be too upsetting to return earlier.
You can also stay connected with Marie Curie by joining our Expert Voices Group. This is a group of people with experience of caring for someone with a terminal illness. They help us develop the support we offer to people with terminal illnesses and their family and friends.
Think about what you used to like doing before your caring role started. If you kept a diary it may surprise you to remember all the different things you used to do.
This is likely to be a painful time for you and you may not feel like taking up activities that you used to enjoy. But it’s good to rediscover your own needs and interests after putting yourself second for such a long time.
Taking things at your own pace
Try not to rush into lots of new activities and social groups. If you’re still grieving you might feel isolated, even within a group.
Volunteering with Marie Curie
When an appropriate period of time has passed, for you, since your relative or friend died, you may begin to feel like meeting new people again, as well as discovering new activities. One way of doing this is to volunteer. We have many volunteering opportunities and you might find one that suits you.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations website lists volunteering opportunities with other organisations, including helping children with their reading, recording butterfly numbers on a walk or doing an administrative role.
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