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I am aware of two different forces acting from within me.  One is the downward weight of grief. The other is an upward energy that comes from the release from caregiving.  After 16 years of part time caregiving, seven of which were full time.....during which (at one point) I completely lost myself... I feel I am getting parts of myself back so I have the strange sensation of having lost Bernie but beginning to find myself again after all of these years.  Anyone else experience that contrast?  I'd love to hear what it has been like for you.  I feel I have layers and layers of stress to peel off and with each layer I find a little more of me.......and, yet, at the same time I miss this man, this friend, my partner of 37 years.

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That is a long time of care-giving, Germaine, so I don't blame you one bit. My husband's illness went on for many months and included some intense care-giving - and particularly so for the last many weeks. It would have been unsustainable at the level. I was relived for him that the illness was over - but I would have much preferred a miracle, of course. But if the miracle was not to be, I was grateful that the intense phase did not last forever.  That being said, I would have also gladly changed my entire life around to care for him, because near the end - even the sound of his breath was holy to me. But God did not ask it of me to change my life in that way indefinitely - only for a little while... But it gave me great empathy for women who are long term caregivers for their husbands or others in their families.

After all the care giving we can finally get some rest - the stress of juggling it all is gone, but now we toss and turn anyway....missing them next to us. :(

I certainly do.  At first the care giving included managing prescriptions and doctor appointments.  As the heart disease progressed, more and more care was required.  There was also issues with his lung from his first open heart surgery so there was the administering of breathing treatments.  Near the final stages, I created charts to track salt, liquid, blood pressure, daily weight, everything that he ate was weighed and/or measured.  Prescriptions became more and more complicated.  

Needless to say, with his passing, the first thing I did was tear up the charts, disposed of all the medical equipment and drugs that had accumulated over the years!  I thought this is the only "good" thing about his passing.  What a relief to have to no longer be concerned about the constant tracking.  But then I asked myself what do I do with all the free time?  So far I fill it with crying.  I don't have the energy nor am I able to think!  I might come up with idea to do something; then it just vanishes from my brain.  What's that all about?

My Harry died of congestive heart failure in July 2014. He also had ongoing Diabetes. My care giving duties increased gradually over the last 10 years of his life. Eventually I found my duties as caregiver totally consumed my life! Keeping track of meds and schedules, researching treatment options, keeping apptmts with docs and hospitals and labs. And then, during the final year, taking over dealing with his personal hygiene . And, during this decline his mood became darker and darker. I was the target for verbal abuse and lashing out. It was awful. I wanted so desperately for us to share our last days in peace and love but he seemed determined to see to it that didn't happen. Yes, I miss him desperately. No, I do NOT miss all the work that caregiving required! I find peace in knowing his suffering has ended and have been slowly trying to build my life again. The loneliness is palpable!!

Just yesterday I was wondering "Who am I really?" I made a list of the things I like about myself and another list of what kind of person I would like to become.  The second list is longer.lol. The reason that I did this is because I cannot remember me. The years of caregiving and keeping things under control was so hectic that now I find myself with no way of making myself do anything except read.

I was married for 33.5 years into a narcissistic family where I learned to "dumb down" in order to keep peace. I also spent many years and much of my earnings trying to please the unpleasant MIL.

My husband was the only one that did her bidding and while it irked me, I had learnt to shut up. He developed cancer in 2008 and died three years later. During those years I, like many of you, was caught up in the hospital appointments, therapy appointments, medication calendar, arguing with the insurance people and everything else that goes along with taking care of a very sick husband. He was a realtor who could no longer drive so I drove him and his clients around just so he can feel useful and happy when he made a sale.  I had my own full-time business which I neglected terribly just to focus my attention on him. Then all of a sudden one day he died. Sudden because while I knew he had cancer, I did not know that he would die then. Within 30 mins of his death, while I was still in the hospital, his oldest brother wanted to know my plans for our house and at the funeral another one wanted to know how much insurance money he left.  Then his family came up with a story that he was keeping some of his mom's assets and now they wanted it back. Mind you, he was ill for three years so they could have discussed it with him if it were indeed so. We ended up in a big court battle which I won but the whole experience plus all the "dumbed down" years had left me trying to figure out who I am.  After 33.5 years, I need to find the young woman of 22 again. But I have changed and I do not know me anymore.  So I am on this quest to learn about me.

I have come up with the following goals which some of you may identify with.

-become more selfish-not narcissistic but just to not give away too much.

-become more energetic-do more in a day not spend time watching tv or thinking too much.

-set some goals and try to achieve them.

-be more patient with myself, learn to love me more even in bad times.

-smile more, look cheerful even though my heart is broken. 

-be more grateful for what I have.

-less critical of myself and stop the negative chatter in my head.

-be more empathetic without trying to solve other people's problems.

If I can find a way to master this list then I will be well on my way to living a more productive life and find my true purpose.

I hope that my email is not too long and boring but I think that if I work this plan, I will be ok.

Jen.   

I thought about that the other day too - what did I used to like to do? I started thinking of clubs or groups to join where people relied on me to be there.  I talk a good game, because I haven't done any of them yet!! But I am signed up for a grief support group, next week, and I did start volunteering at a local hospital last month. 

Don't assume your email is long and boring - we all have things to say that can help others - you do too!! This is a good list! One thing I do that keeps me going is I write a to-do list every night before bed. I jot down a few things that I want or need to accomplish.  It gives me focus for the next day - the days I don't have anything on the list or anyplace I have to be - those are the days I lose focus, and wander in a fog, or tears. 

Icecream,

Thank you.  I too talk a good game. I think that I have several people inside me. One who knows what needs to be done (I call her Energy) and another who I  call Lazy.  When I am on a roll and not distracted, Energy  reigns and I am very productive.  When something happens to interrupt that roll, Lazy  appears and Energy has the dickens of a time to get rid of her.  Lazy is reigning right now. lol. I am actually not continuously sad anymore (almost 3 years  widowed) buy I definitely miss my husband and wish for his spirit to be at peace.  I feel like he went away and I will see him again sometime. Meanwhile, I will work on that list.

It is great that you are volunteering at the hospital. I was thinking of doing that too. I have never had grief support due to the lawsuit and crap that I had to deal with. On a good note, while it was a difficult time for me, the lawsuit was distracting from the deep sorrow.

Jen.

Jen, the list is a great idea.  I'm a thinking - I think about all the things I should do (like making a list) and then I don't get around to doing them; my motivation is so lacking.

I don't think a hospital would be a good place for me to volunteer.  I am doing volunteer work (well, now I'm just healing from my back surgery).  There are whole days I do absolutely nothing; there are days I do as much as I possibly can.  I get tired very easily (I have fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis and when I have a flair, I'm pretty much not good for anything) and I think being depressed exacerbates the fatigue, or maybe it's the other way around!  I keep saying I don't have nearly as many bad days as I did the first year.  The only problem with volunteer work is that it really doesn't take up much time.  So, the answer for me at least, is to do work for more organizations. And I meet a lot of nice people! 

We all have several people inside of ourselves; different ages and stuck at different stages of development.  I have one who just does what needs to be done because there isn't anyone else to do it and one who just likes to feel sorry for myself and will sit here and not do anything at all.  And there are many more - like I said, we all have different "parts of self".  You might like to read about Internal Family Systems if you haven't already.  It's a good way of looking at that. 

Have a nice rest of the weekend. 

Goingon,

I have not heard about internal family systems but I will look at that. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who has different people inside of me. In this journey, I have come to discover that people who have hurt me in the past are actually suffering from their own unrecognized, untreated mental deficiencies. 

 I can imagine your feelings when you have physical pain plus grief. I struggle with depression also. My paternal grandfather was hospitalized for it in the 40's when he lost all his cattle in a big flood and the bank foreclosed.  He was 48 and never fully recovered. Then my Mom was always on valium. I struggle to keep things in perspective so that I can prevent long term depression.  I have asked one particular friend to remind me at times of the value that I bring to the world. She knows when I need to hear this. However I do need to get out of my head and do more good things (the list).  

Jen. 

I'm sorry about your grandfather's experience; I can completely understand how that would make a man depressed - especially a man and that generation, where the value of a man was judged more readily by how well he could care for his family.  Men still value themselves by their work; when a man loses his job, he loses a huge part of himself and how he sees himself.

You mom was probably always on Valium because that was the "cure" for that generation - of women.  It was given instead of antidepressants because they antidepressants back then weren't as effective as they are now and had many more side effects. And it was easier for most doctors to "give the little lady a pill" instead of finding out what was really going on, and women were made to feel nuts or "neurotic" when they really just had the stressors of daily life, especially when they didn't get a lot of help at home.  My mom had 4 kids and my dad would never have changed a diaper or cooked a meal.  Fortunately, things began to change with my generation (sorry; I don't know how old you are - I"m 62) and my husband was one of those who did change diapers, got up early with the babies on Saturdays so I could have one day to sleep late and catch up; and he never made me feel like I HAD to work, but didn't mind when I wanted to.  He was the best dad and the best man I could have married.  I'm so lucky he chose me.  He was a wonderful model to his daughters for the kind of man they should look for to marry themselves (which makes it hard to accept why one of our daughters chose such an idiot for a husband... oh well.  Can't do anything about that one now...).

Anyway, yea, we all have different parts of ourselves; wives, husbands, business person, parent, child, etc. 

Hi everyone. I was a caregiver for 15 years after my husband suffered a severe brain injury. He developed extensive medical issues ( both physical and mental) after that event and required constant care. He suffered from severe depression and wild mood swings. He was diagnosed with very aggressive brain cancer on Christmas Eve 2013 and passed away February 19, 2014. I worked full time through it all and had very little assistance. He was able to stay home alone while I worked because I installed a camera system in my home that allowed me to observe him 24/7. I work about 5 minutes from my home and could get back quickly if necessary (that was frequent).
It has been almost 6 months since he passed and yes it is a mixture of grief and relief. I miss my "real" husband but know he is no longer suffering. I am slowly returning to "me" and I can't wait. I can now sleep through the night, stay focused at work and do things on my own schedule. I miss Dave every day but I know he would want me to live life so that is what I am going to do. I retire in a couple of years and plan to go back to school and get another degree perhaps a masters in social services and work in grief counseling.
I am so glad to have you folks to share with and support.

i just lost my husband of 27 years, in may. he had a 5 yr battle with brain cancer but was really only ill the last 6 months. I am devestated and find myself questioning every thing we did to fight it and doing the could have, should have, would have and only if  thing. I don't even know who I am - to find myself again. I havn't made a decision by myself in 27 years. I am very afraid and feeling very alone. I have an 18 yr old and a 14 yr old and am 51.  i am sooo ready for the layers fo stress to peel off but dont know even where or how to start

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