Everyone experiences loss during life. However, for carers many of the changes and losses experienced come quickly and can lead to feelings of grief. Other people may understand that you feel grief for the person who has died but they may not realise that you can also feel the loss of not being a carer anymore.
Some of the losses that affect carers include:
- Losing your sense of being an individual - your independence, privacy and time for yourself
- Missing out on employment and career opportunities and your financial security being affected
- Not seeing friends or family due to caring commitment
- Missing the relationship you used to have, or might have had, with the person you care for
- The person you care for going into residential care, so you feel you are no longer valued or needed
- You may also experience grief before an actual loss occurs. This may happen when someone you care for has a terminal illness and you know you will have to face a loss.
These kinds of losses may affect your self esteem, confidence and hopes and dreams about the future.
Bereavement counseling offers the opportunity to explore, understand and work through feelings of grief. Although everyone's personal reaction to a bereavement is different, most people experience some of the following emotional responses when someone close to them dies such as disbelief, shock, anger, sadness, relief, guilt, depression, anxiety, despair, longing and loneliness. Carer support groups can offer different types of support. Your general practitioner or local health office can provide advice on supports available in your area.
Grief is a natural reaction to loss. It is as much a part of your emotions as joy and sadness and is not an illness. It can occur not only following a death but also as a result of major life changes such as:
- Separation or divorce
- Changing or losing your job
- Moving or migrating
- Children leaving home.
Feelings of grief
Grief is not just one feeling, but a range of feelings and everyone responds differently to it. You may feel physically unwell as well as emotionally upset.
Physical symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Dryness of mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems.
Grief can also cause deep emotional upset including feelings of:
- Ongoing sadness
- Not wanting to go out or do the things you used to do.
These symptoms can be frightening but are normal reactions to grief.
Some of the signs described above may also be symptoms of other problems so it's a good idea to talk about them with your doctor. Make sure your doctor knows about your caring role and how it affects you.
If you are feeling very anxious or fearful, if you have trouble looking after yourself or think about hurting yourself, it is very important to get professional help from your doctor, a counselor or a psychologist.
How to cope
- Talk about it – talking to people you trust about your loss may help you to accept the situation
- Seek pastoral advice or spiritual support if you feel it will help
- Crying helps as it allows painful feelings to be expressed
- Make some time for yourself each day
- Have plans in place for when you feel down to make it easier to cope
- Take care of yourself – get plenty of rest, eat well and take time to talk
- If you are bereaved, only sort out the personal belongings of the person who has died when you feel ready – this act may help you to accept your loss.
In some cases, loss may be felt for years or sometimes for a lifetime. If you are struggling to overcome your grief, there are Carer support groups which can help you get through times when your grief seems overwhelming. They can also be a safe place to talk about feelings such as anger and resentment.
Exercise, such as walking, deep breathing or writing in a journal are other safe ways to release angry feelings, blame or resentment. For some people crying can be a great release.
Support groups can be a safe place to talk about your worries and to hear how other Carers have coped with difficult situations. They offer different types of support and if you find that one particular group doesn't suit you, then ask about others in your area.
Your public health nurse or general practitioner can offer support and advice on services available in your area. Your Carer Resource Centre also can help put you in touch with your local Carer support groups. Contact them on1800 24 07 24. You can also check your local newspaper or parish newsletter for local support groups.
Other useful articles or links:
Citizen’s Information - Bereavement Counselling and Support
Bereavement Counseling Service
LoCall: 1850 440 444
HSE National Information Line
Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850
Carer Resource Centre
LoCall: 1800 24 07 24
Department of Family and Social Affairs - Support Payments for the Bereaved