What is Caregiver Grief?
Caregiver grief is a very common and natural response after the passing of a loved one or client. It’s a natural response to the loss, especially considering the care, attention, and support caregivers provide. Due to the attentive nature of the job, caregivers spend a great deal of time with their client or loved one, which can cause a void once they’ve passed.
All grief is different, and caregiver grief can be especially difficult to manage. As illness, disease, or age cause complications to your loved one’s or client’s health, a negative mindset can set in quickly. Guilt, depression, mood swings, and despair are all signs of grief, and the signs of it can even begin before the loss of a client or loved one.
Below outlines the standard stages of grief for caregivers.
Stages of Grief
While no two people experience grief the same way, there is a standard way of interpreting it. Below are the five typical stages of grief as developed by the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
- Shock or Denial – We try to minimize the emotional pain by doubting the situation, which is a way to dull the shock of the situation.
- Anger – This usually manifests in frustration. This stage can also appear as guilt, mood swings, anxiety, and general irritability as a way to cope with the pain.
- Bargaining – This stage usually involves a caregiver asking questions to themselves to remedy the situation. Questions such as, “what could have done better or different to prevent this” will be common.
- Depression – In this stage, you reach the lowest point of the loss possible. This overwhelming sadness takes the form of usual depression symptoms, such as fatigue, unwillingness to eat, lack of enjoyment, and more.
- Acceptance – In the end, even if you aren’t okay with what happened, you are at a place where you understand the loss and learn to move forward from it.
Types of Grief Caregivers May Experience
Grief, even over a client, can be a difficult emotion to manage. It’s experienced in many ways and is broader than just the normal grief we feel when someone passes. Below are three types of grief caregivers may experience.
This type of loss is most commonly experienced in family members who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Due to the memory loss and change of personality associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s, a caregiver may experience unresolved closure. The person is physically there, but mentally they are absent. This can be difficult for some to deal with since conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia have no cure or predictable end. Ambiguous loss can become overwhelming for caregivers as they watch their client slowly fade over time.
Anticipatory grief happens before death and is when you have to embrace the eventual death of a loved one. This type of grief is difficult to manage since it comes in a time prior to death. It’s common during this phase to experience more mood swings, general sadness, dread, and anxiety leading up to the client or loved one’s passing. In this time, you can also feel guilt and regret from the inability to change the situation.
Grief Over a Client’s Death
As a caregiver, witnessing and continuing care during the physical and mental decline of a client can take a toll on your mental health. Even though your relationship may not have been very long, the intimate nature of the job creates a friendship with your client. It is important and expected for caregivers to experience grief or depression after the death of a client they’ve grown close to, so there are solutions and support you can pursue.
How Caregivers May Cope with Grief
Grief is overwhelming and takes time to process in some people fully. During this time, it’s essential that you let yourself feel the emotions you have. Take time away from caregiving to process your grief. Some home care agencies, like JEVS, offer bereavement time for their caregivers as an opportunity to take time away.
Reach out for help if you need it; it’s important to know you aren’t alone. In addition to caregiver support groups, caregivers can also seek professional help in the form of a therapist to guide them through their grief. Dedicate the time to yourself to heal; eat well, rest up, exercise, and meditate.
If you are a caregiver for a friend or family member, be sure to stress the notion that they aren’t alone. Offer to spend time with them and offer support if necessary.
How JEVS Helps Our Caregivers During the Grieving Process
At JEVS, we understand that the relationships we form with our clients and loved ones can make their passing difficult. As a company, we believe that regardless of your connection to the care recipient that you deserve the opportunity to take bereavement leave. Our policies grant two weeks of leave, giving you the time to process your emotions and decide how you plan to move forward from here. We strive to support you from the start to the end of your time with us. We also offer you the opportunity to continue working with us in the future.