How a grieving caregiving sibling, partner, or child could move past guilt

Where the birds fly free, how a grieving caregiving sibling, partner, or child could move past guilt, and suffering to find new meaning after their beloved elderly’s death! Our second at the End of life care series! 

As humans leave this earth, there are things that get ignored sometimes, or may have just fallen through the cracks…as living beings, many of these are taken for granted, forgotten, or concealed …

Death is inevitable for every mortal being on Earth and dying is a journey, art, and science that man is yet to explore. If we would like this world to be a place where the birds fly free, we will have to care for our grieving! 

Grief is deep, ironical, indestructible, agony, a hole in the heart that will never repair itself. Grief is beyond words, phrases, poetry, and any writing. Our grieving for each instance of death and dying encounter is incomparable. Over the decades of caring for end-of-life, hospice patients, including my own father, nothing has changed me as I write this…That grief we are talking about is very vast, different when it is a carer, vs a family member. There are no ultimatums, everyone grieves, and each one of us grieves very differently. Sometimes certain deaths hit us hard while others do not. Here in this blog, we look from various points of view, in various scenarios with some examples. No one is right and no one is wrong… so hopefully some may or may not resonate. 

While we talk about this unpleasant part of our life journey, there is also something more to this, finding new meaning after a death of a beloved elderly! Every life must be lived well and our new series on end-of-life care explores today’s ways to grieve and find new meaning…

Some of the factors helping a grieving caregiving family member, partner, spouse, caregiver, or others… find new meaning : 

  1. How were they related to and their experiences with the dying person? Our emotions are overtaken by lived past and present experiences, directly and indirectly, so our strength to carry on finds a direct connection to our depth of connections! In many instances, of positivity like inspiration and empowerment, the attachment is very deep and grieving takes longer, while with negative experiences it can be both a shorter or longer grieving process. As the grieving person is more aged, their own health, personal mental and physical and financial and other statuses will start playing into this grieving process. So their new meaning might be to lay low, be silent, or become introverted, whereas for a younger person it might be the opposite, while this is not definite, it can go either way in either case. The challenge here is to make sure that the new meaning is not harmful to the person in any way… for I have seen someone that became an alcoholic and another a voracious gambler. Finding new meaning is complex, and can be temporary or permanent. Care of the companion is as important as of the end of life. 
  2. Supportive systems, a companionship-based system in a community can infinitely add a fresh breath of life to an elderly. Though they may grieve silently, they are not alone or feel alone. Such individuals actually thrive in the post-loss stages. They can start a hobby with ease, chat with no inhibition and even venture into things they wanted to which they could not previously have been consumed by caregiving. Now, this may not be seen as ideal in many cultures, nevertheless, it is a positive thing. Mental health is based on the ability to grieve completely and the time taken to grieve matters. Instead of placing a taboo, how about we encourage and empower people who are able to move on with humility, dignity, and respect? Even in developed countries, these are common scenarios, and as long as there is humanity, there will always be exceptionally empowered people. 
  3. Ideology and personal principles. Many times, we assume one should grieve for a certain time and characterize people as mentally incompetent if their grieving is longer. In reality, our thoughts and our DNA are so complex that we are made of ideologies and principles. So for some, the very thought of moving on and finding new meaning can be fearful, insane, unkind, disrespectful, and so on. While for others it might be the best and right thing to do and maybe even the ask of their beloved elderly. These people want to carry out the things their elderly wanted them to do after they are gone and accomplishing such can bring such joy that grief now becomes a celebration and a thing of happiness giving an easy closure. Even in such instances, people still can crumble, for all tears are not of joy but also of sorrow. Supportive systems are always helpful and can serve grieving people in many ways, at different times. 
  4. Family opinions, and families will always be part of death and dying. In the aftermath of such incidence, after having lost a beloved elderly, older children of seniors become more involved with their parents. They want their best for them, wanting them to grieve quickly and move on. They build dreams, fantasize about vacations, want to relocate to senior living and care and so much more. But are the grieving members ready? Many times doing things in haste despite having good intentions can be detrimental to an elderly person who is grieving. I have seen people that just declined, in the aftermath, eventually passing away. They may not want to move so fast, a respectable space helps, but closure cannot happen instantly, especially if one has to sell off their homes, and belongings, put them in storage, or even move cross country. Debilitation of all aspects of health can accompany grieving elderly members quickly. So taking one step at a time may be the best option. 

In saying so, as you read these, you might have more questions or visions of past circumstances, it is best to consult a mental health professional if grieving is out of context and is going to be harmful or a safety concern for the griever. Depression, anxiety, personality disorders, or even dementia can all come as a surprise to the family, especially when it involves a grieving elderly partner or family member. Hope this helped you in some ways, there are many others, and we would love to see your comments, hope you can share with

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