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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published May 09 2010

Bursack: We all grieve in our own way

Dear Readers: I recently had a conversation with a friend who had just lost her elderly mother after years of caregiving.

She held up well throughout the death and the legal aftermath, but now my friend is drained. She told me she is not only tired, but she isn’t functioning normally.

This conversation brought me back to a time two years after my own mother’s death.

Mom was the last of seven elders for whom I had provided care. Though still heavily involved in elder care as a cause, Mom’s death marked the end of my active caregiving. Her death saddened me, but she was ready to go. She died peacefully, with my sister and me by her side.

Many people predicted that I would feel a huge void after the last of my elders was gone, but I didn’t. Not then. I felt sadness, and I missed them all, but my loved ones had endured long, lingering years of pain and decline before their deaths. They had expressed a readiness to pass on, which is not unusual under these circumstances.

With a sense of sadness, but an acceptance of the inevitable, I got on with my life. I wasn’t running quite as fast, as I wasn’t making daily trips to the nursing home to see one or more elders. I got up and went to work without first stopping by the nursing home. However, I increased my involvement in elder care through my writing and my support of those who were currently traveling the road I traveled for so long.

I believe that this continuity may have put off some of my grieving. Then it happened. Two years after the fact, I was hit by nearly overwhelming grief. It came out of nowhere, but there it was. Fortunately, I knew enough about the grief process to recognize what was happening.

I am grateful for that awakening. I processed my grief in my own way.

This story was shared with my friend as I tried to make the point that we all cope with grief differently. I suggested she contact hospice and ask about grief counseling and group support meetings.

I told her she wasn’t “losing it.” She was going through a process that will take a long time. Help from others who have traveled the same road is invaluable, and I know she will do fine once she talks with others who have shared her experience.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I know you are happy and out of pain.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.