“Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.” – Cynthia Ozick
Today marks the second anniversary of the passing of my mother and the end of my role as a primary family caregiver. This date was Mother’s Day in 2012. Needless to say Mother’s Day is not an easy time of the year for me. I did spend a beautiful Mother’s Day this year with my Aunt Millie, who is still a feisty, warm, and wonderful woman at 92 years young. I also enjoyed the company of a number of my cousins and received lots of kind messages of love from other family members and dear friends.
The image shared above is of a collage put together by my wonderful cousin Ellen for my mom’s funeral. These photos bring me much comfort during my journey through grief as my mom belonged to everyone who knew her as “Our Bunny.”
In my book, “The Accidental Caregiver’s Survival Guide,” I devote a chapter to discuss life beyond caregiving. I share the importance of doing things for yourself while you are caring for a loved one not just to give yourself necessary breaks but to build other interests so you have a purpose for your life beyond caregiving.
I was blessed to have my mother’s support after the passing of my father to seek other outlets for personal and professional development. During my final two years of caring for my mother, I completed coaching certification and training, volunteered on non-profit boards of directors, became an active member of my religious community, started coaching fellow caregivers, and even traveled occasionally for educational retreats. At all times, my mom was my #1 priority and during her times of serious illness or physical struggles, I would remain closely by her side with support.
Carving out time for myself and seeking other supports to provide intermittent care for my mother permitted me to build a business and a purpose for my life beyond serving as a family caregiver. Through these activities, I developed a vast network of clients, friends and colleagues who have and continue to sustain me as I move forward one intentional step at a time.
I will not sugar-coat this journey. Even with my best efforts, it has not been easy. There are times that I feel really sad. On those days, I just want to stay in bed and under the covers and cry over a box of chocolates. I lovingly allow myself to experience those down times when I need to. In fact, this past Mother’s Day, I had a good cry early in the morning after reading a really nice message from a friend. After moving through the grief burst, I chose to go out a pick up a box of chocolates for my aunt so we could enjoy some time together on what was a beautiful summer like day.
Practice Tip: After the passing of your loved one or a major health crisis, you see and experience life with a new lens. Although it can seem really difficult at times, try to create or chart a new course and honor your loved one’s legacy by moving forward with your own life. You can get started today by thinking about something you have been wanting to do for yourself – take a class, pursue a hobby, enjoy a concert, plan a mini-vacation, etc. Once you determine what most interests you, seek a supporter to chat with who can help you start to plan to work through those thoughts and put them into action.
You have provided much love and support as a dedicated caregiver and you are so deserving of all the beauty and gifts life has to bring as you travel through it. After all, your loved one would want you to live your life to the fullest.
P.S. – The next Caregiving Power Hour is this coming Sunday, May 18th at 8pm ET. For this session, Gwen Morgan, author of the “What if …Workbook” will join me so we can explore how to best get things in order to prepare your family for caregiving supports. It is sure to be an informative session. Please bring your burning questions and get the support you need. Secure your free spot at http://www.caregivingpowerhour.com. If you have already registered for a prior Caregiving Power Hour, you need not register again. Automatic reminders will be sent to you this coming Thursday and one hour prior to the session.