It doesn't necessarily take a major crisis, such as the death of a loved one, to set in motion the process of grieving. I have known many caregivers that were hurled into a state of grieving due to the hardships involved in placing their loved one in a nursing facility.
A good friend of mine explained it this way; when the time came for her husband to pass away, she realized that she had already said her goodbyes, over and over again. Throughout a year and a half he had been living in a memory care unit of an assisted living community. She visited him almost every day, and she had found it heartbreaking every time it came time for her to leave. The guilt of feeling she was abandoning him overwhelmed her each time she walked out the door. She told me, "Even though he had been there for quite a while, I still felt as if I was leaving him in the hands of strangers."
The turmoil of grief, depression and loneliness had mixed up quite the emotional
cocktail, lasting for months on end.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, another caregiver contacted me, asking how it could be possible that her father, her mother's primary caregiver, seemed to experience absolutely no grief at all after the death of his wife, her dear mother.
Here's where families can experience deep misunderstanding, bitterness and anger, and without professional help with which to process these feelings, the conflict may remain unresolved for many, many years.
It is a well-established fact that everyone grieves in a unique fashion. To say that there's a right or wrong way would be a controversial statement; however, experience tells me that there are some wrong ways.
I strongly believe that one is failing to reach out for help while experiencing depression after losing a loved one. Counseling and support groups are out there waiting to help. Please don't turn them down.
But if they're not helping, make yourself an appointment with your physician and explain what you're going through. It is common for caregivers to undergo bouts of depression for up to three years or even longer. Please don't let it go that far.
Experts that study the grieving process have identified at least five major stages. Personally, I would prefer calling them something else, for there is no set pattern to which will come first.
These are some symptoms to be aware of:
Denial: This can range from feeling numb to a complete emotional shutdown.
Anger: This emotion can be thrown at everyone the persons know and then some, including themselves.
Preoccupation: This involves the habit of going 100 mph, never stopping or giving the chance for grief to transpire.
Depression: The withdrawal of social interaction and putting aside everyday responsibilities.
These characteristics are just a small example of what each element of grief endures, but what I believe is the most important catalyst in bringing closure is acceptance. If you can make it to this point, I believe you are on your way to regaining some kind of normalcy.