Loss, grief, guilt and sadness …

Dear Gillian,

After my mother died I took care of my father for more years than I want to think about.  He was ok initially and then after several strokes he went into a home because he needed full time care, I work and have two children. He just wasn’t “my Dad” anymore and yet I still went through the motions – the visits, the one sided conversations (as he did not seem to respond).  My heart would sink every time I thought about him, his situation or visiting the home, I really wanted it all to end.  He recently died and far from feeling relieved and free I feel guilty and so sad. I don’t know why I am writing to you but just wanted something, maybe reassurance”.

Dear Catherine,

The grieving process is different for everyone but goes through many similar stages.  It can be confusing when you have a mix of loss, grief, guilt and sadness. Reading your letter I feel it is possible you never got a chance to grieve for your mother fully as you took on the role of carer for your father.  There is some adjustment to make when the child/parent roles change and the child becomes responsible for the parents care, this can have it’s own sense of loss.

Taking on the role of carer can be very draining emotionally and physically and can bring on feelings of resentment or frustration quite apart from anything else, especially if other family members do not share the load.  I suspect that you needed to mourn the loss of your Dad after the strokes had taken their toll but could not as technically he had not died and was still with you.

You also have two children and this is a lot of responsibility (and yes very rewarding) but it maybe concerning you that in later life they may face this situation with you.

The good news is that now that your father has passed away you can begin the process of grieving properly for both parents. This is a natural process and does not mean that you move on and forget them, they will always have a special place in your heart. In a way it brings them back to you as you can start to remember the good times again when they were healthy, before all the other stuff happened.  More importantly you can put some of that energy that was being drained by the situation into yourself and your family and start living and loving your life.

Be kind and gentle with yourself now. If I brought a child to you who had just lost their parents you would know how to treat them.  You would make them feel safe, secure and loved…so I want you to do this for yourself. Take a look at the concepts involved in clearing out negativity, supporting and learning to love yourself.  For more on grief take a look here.

Take time for YOU Catherine, you are a wonderful woman, you deserve it.