Grief is a shadow to caregiving, following us around in unexpected ways. It's common to grieve for the robust person you knew before Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, or another disease came along. And yet friends point out how lucky you are because your loved one is "still here." You're both right.
"With caregiving, you face a series of losses before the final good-bye," says TV-radio personality Leeza Gibbons, founder of Leeza's Place communities for caregivers, whose mother had Alzheimer's disease.
More tips on how to cope with these complicated feelings:
Realize that what you're feeling is as real as classic grief, because it's the same emotional process at work. Grieving doesn't require a loss of life, psychologists say.
Be kind to yourself. Don't hide such feelings or label them as inappropriate. You'll feel better for embracing them. Celebrate and cherish your memories of your loved one.
Consider ways to create a lasting legacy of your loved one. Projects such as a life story, scrapbooks and photo albums, or arranging to share beloved objects with other people or charities can help you feel productive at a challenging time.
Tap into hospice care. Hospice workers, who work with those thought to have a life expectancy of less than 6 to 12 months, also work with families to help them process grief now and later.
Talk to other caregivers about your sense of loss. They'll understand what you mean better than anyone. Confide to others at a support group or in online forums.