by Mike Collins
This is my first holiday season of my life without my mother. On Wednesday, Oct. 28, at about 9:15 a.m., she passed away. My current caregiver journey is over.
During the days following her death, my brother, Joe, and I stayed in close touch about how we were doing and how the details of Mama’s service would be handled.
One of the things Joe and I agreed about was the surprising feeling of release and relief we had. The steady hum of the weight of caregiving had been going on for so long that I had become unaware of the stress. When the journey ended, it seemed that the worry that had been such a weight … lifted.
It’s such a cliche to say Mama is in a better place; however, considering her deteriorating condition, she’s better off and so are we. During the last few days, so many folks have been kind, caring and understanding. They’ve offered, “Sorry for your loss.” My answer has surprised some, “This was one of those situations in which you don’t want it to happen, but you’re glad when it does.”
I realize this is an odd way to start a message about the holidays, but, if you are a caregiver, or you know someone who is, one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself or others this year is to understand that it’s OK to have or desire the feeling of relief that comes when your caregiver journey is over. It’s natural. It’s also natural to chastise yourself, to feel a little or a lot guilty for having the thought. Learn to understand that the thought is your body and brain’s way of supporting you and helping you survive. You simply need to understand that sometimes your mind (you do know that your brain and mind are two different things, right?) isn’t working in your best interest by generating thoughts of guilt.
If you are a friend of a caregiver, you probably often ask, “Is there anything I can do?” This holiday season, stop asking and start doing. Help him or her find time off from caregiving, take a meal, listen with both ears and be the friend you would want them to be if the roles were reversed.
Holidays are always difficult for caregivers in a variety of ways. This year, give yourself a break. If you find it difficult to have a happy holiday, at least have a better holiday. Check www.crazycaregiver.com for more caregiver holiday ideas.
©2015 Mike Collins.
Collins is the producer of the video, “Care for the Caregiver,” winner of a National Caregiver Friendly Award from Today’s Caregiver Magazine. For ways to deal with the craziness of caregiving, visit www.crazycaregiver.com.