What happens to a caregiver after a loved one is gone?

It’s been six rough months.
I am about 180+Adrienne days into my new life as an orphan, and it’s time to do an ‘about face.’ (Play the music if you want the mood.) I got through the holidays all right, reached my birthday in February without falling apart and for the most part have sorted through the majority of my mother’s belongings. But now it’s time to move forward. Now it’s time for me to answer the question posed in my blog title:  What happens to a caregiver after a loved one is gone?

After combing the Internet for answers and talking to friends who have lost 220px-StAugustineLighthouse_StairsLookingDowntheir loved ones (including one who is a psychologist), it seems there’s no right or wrong way to go about this.  I was hoping for some guidance about time frames, some hurdles to get over or benchmarks to look for – that sort of advice. Alas! Like everything else, there’s no magic bullet. You just have to muddle through the best you can. And I’m also learning that just because you’re fine one day, doesn’t mean that grief won’t pop up years later and make you ‘surprisingly emotional.’

My last post was raw and honest, and I struggled as to whether or not to take it down. But I know that reading other people’s personal accounts has helped me, and so that is my ultimate goal:  To bring the process – the whole process of loving and caring and losing and living – out into the open so that we can have a frank and open discussion about how to go about the next twenty or thirty or more years of all of our lives.

Therefore, in order to move beyond my own caregiving days and into the sunshine of whatever new model I can help to craft,  I will endeavor to share my views on home care in general, as opposed to my own personal experience.  My object is the same as it was when I began this blog all those months ago:  to help create a future more natural and compassionate so that as we ourselves venture into our ‘Golden Years’  we will be less reliant on agencies and strangers.  I truly welcome any suggestions that others may have!

In the spirit of getting beyond my own grief, I just want to list my fledgling suggestions to a caregiver’s ‘aftercare.’  I have learned that for now, there are things that I must avoid in order to keep my eye makeup from running: (Of course, I can leave off the makeup.)  Here are things I have found I cannot do. You  may have others.

–  I cannot listen to the familiar opera arias on W-QXR that I used to sing to her.
–  I cannot look through more than a few photographs at a time, and especially not recent ones.
–  I cannot talk about Mom much because after about 6 seconds I feel a lump rising in my throat.
–  I cannot look at photos of elderly mothers and daughters.
–  I cannot sit at the table and have a cup of tea unless I am distracted by something else.
–  Certain pieces of Broadway musicals make me want to cry, like Happy Talk, from South Pacific and  “Climb every mountain” (my name is, after all, Hillary, as in ‘Everest’) from The Sound of Music That was the last Broadway play my sister Andrea and I took our mother to see.  All three songs include lyrics that express my mother’s philosophy of life: That you’ve got to have a dream… Oops, I’m starting to cry…
–  Enya’s “Evacuee” from Shepherd Moon had me weeping way back in 1991 when it first came out, knowing that the day would come, so I especially can’t listen to it now.

Each time on my leaving home
I run back to my mother’s arms,
One last hold and then it’s over.

Watching me, you know I cry,
You wave a kiss to say goodbye,
Feel the sky fall down upon me!

All I am, a child with promises
All I have, are miles full of promises of home.

If only I could stay with you,
My train moves on, you’re gone from view,
Now I must wait until it’s over.

All I am, a child with promises
All I have, are miles full of promises of home.

Days will pass, your words to me,
It seems so long; eternity,
But I must wait until it’s over.

Having listed all that and gotten it off my chest, if I avoid the things listed above, believe I can (try to) get on with my life and live it as Mom would want me to, I think I can move forward. Life is for the living, and I’m tired of living in the shadows. (Ugh! I hear her voice echoing in my head, quoting Yoda:  “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”)

OK Mom.

My friend just gave me a pair of hiking boots.  I guess I should venture into the sun as it is almost Spring.


If you’ve got the time, here’s a wonderful post (even if it’s a little long) by a fellow blogger I follow by the name of Tim Miller called, “There’s Only the Trying: Some Thoughts on Fame and Failure.” It’s well worth the time to read.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s