Caregiver Confessions: When You're Grieving . . . but Your Loved One Is Still Alive

Firsthand advice from a caregiver who's been there

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.

Watch Leeza's advice on managing "anticipatory grief."

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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.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

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.

See also:

When You're Feeling Guilt

When You Don't Feel Appreciated

When You're Sleeping Poorly

When You're in Over Your Head

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

When You Lose Your Temper

Family Is Being Torn Apart

When You're Just Not Eating Right

When You Rarely See Friends

When You Resent Being a Caregiver

When No One Will Help

Feeling Anticipatory Grief

After Caregiving Ends

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 2 years, said...

I have been dealing with my moms numerous illness for the past 10yrs from cancer to broken shoulder & pelvis to sever pneumonia to numerous lung infections from COPD to heart attack...we are at the hospital so much some of the staff know my mom by her first name. Last week we were at the Emerge I was feeling rather calm...she was there for sever pain in her stomach...I call the pharmacy and ask about a new pill that had been given to her a couple days before what the side effects were...well guess (stomach)...she also tells me that since my mom has a bad stomach to begin with maybe she should try taking it with food. I go out in the waiting room to tell mom but she insists on waiting. I also tell her they will not change her meds because they are not her family doctor but she tells me to I do...four hours later she calls me to go get her. I head up..she gets in the car upset...hasn't seen a doctor...doesn't want to keep taking the pill afterI told her what the pharmasist says to try with food. Then I loose it complete meltdown..I started yelling...saying a lot of things I am sorry for. Then I am I'm loosing my mind. So by then...I tell her I'm sorry..she then tells me...I would never do this to you..Then the guilt kicks in...I stay over to make sure she is OK..the next morning...all seems fine until I get ready to leave...then she becomes sad..doesn't want me to go...she seems to want me around all the time. I am an only father passed away 37yrs ago..and my only family is my moms brother who is NO HELP.....the most frustrating thing to my mom doesn't understand and the guilt is killing me...HELP

over 3 years, said...

Guilt is a terrible thing. Here is what I been dealing with for the last few days. I was moving my wife in her bed and somehow I broke her leg. She been in the hospital for 3 days now, had surgery yesterday to put rods in. Everyone keep telling me it was a accident, but I was responsible for is driving me insane..........

about 6 years, said...

I was a caregiver for 10 yrs, my husband recently passed away and am having trouble getting back to life, we were married 29 yrs. But yes, this article is helpful, but right now I feel as though a limb was removed.

about 6 years, said...

My beloved baby sister is still alive, but the grief is huge. To spend time with her, but know I can never bring her home again, breaks my heart. To have words and a title for what I am feeling, puts it into perspective. Last Christmas is now such a gift, as I remember watching her open her presents, for the last time. To look at the pictures and video is both heart breaking and comforting, knowing she enjoyed her last Christmas as much as possible last year. Eileen is Down's Syndrom and has always been my little sister, I miss my precious girl, that was such a joy for the last 14 years, that my husband and I had the true joy, and fun of having her live with us. It is a huge loss to not have the true joy of our lives, with us this Christmas.

about 6 years, said...

Thank you so much for this one on grief!! I have a ton of loss in my life but they are still alive!!! I have experienced loss before but not the kind where people are still "around" but you are grieving for the loss of the relationship. It just sucks that within a 6 month time frame I have "lost" my mom and divorced my husband. Thank you Leeza!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

over 6 years, said...

This article clearly explains the exact emotions I feel.............

over 6 years, said...

Hi I know this is what is happening now. I'm the main care giver for my mom until 2 weeks ago and she had a small stroke and had to go to hospital. It bothered her left arm but feeling is coming back and was in the hospital for 2 weeks with only a small amount of therapy. We had to make the decision to place her in a nursing home for therapy which will start tommorrow hope to get her strength back and get her back home. Seems like we can do everything that is done at the nursing home and we feel like she needs to come back home. We feel like we left her there and under someone elses care and since I had been doing that it is really hard. The family wants to do the best for her and we will tap into help from respite and homecare to get her back home. Any suggestion on how to get her back home and under our care and what resources we need to contact. Hope to hear from all of you. My dad is 88 and still at home and misses mom they have been married 68 yrs. Need to get her home.

over 6 years, said...

wow that is so right, I was grieving for my Mom at least a year before she passed, I missed my Mom, the Mom who was so smart and always right about everything, who lent an ear or a hand if for any reaosn if I needed it, I missed her smile her being there for me and her loving me long before she actully died...I thought I was alone in this way if thinking cause so many ppl kept teloing me at least she is still here?? they just didn't get it so thanks Lisa, very insightful video's =)

over 6 years, said...

Oh My God!! I cannot put into words how much the videos with Leeza Gibbons have helped me. I have been a subscriber to for some time and the tips and stories have been invaluable. I had a moment of "lost my temper" with my mom last night. It was not a huge thing because I am a pretty low key guy. I am with my mom 24/7 and love taking care of her. The hardest times are in the evening...a la "sundowning". I exercise, love playing my guitar, take acupuncture, and as a result have my "outlets". I felt terrible about my "moment" because I love my mom to the depths of my soul!! I tried to "play it off" but she mentioned it later that evening and that hurt too. Watching the video on "temper" really helped. I already know all the things Ms. Gibbons expressed but it was helpful to hear someone else say "I had that moment too". It is "funny or maybe Ironic" because we know all the scenarios that can happen but yet we fall victim to them. I guess we are all human and more importantly we have a heart and care so much for our loved ones. When I say I love my mom the words just do not do justice...I just want to honor and continue to take care of her and be the son I am for 99% of the time. Thank you Leeza Gibbons for giving us some of you and Thank you for being there!! Peace....