Think about who you were before the care giving began.
Life was ‘life.’ There was family. There were friends.
There was a job. There was a job that required you to probably get in the car, or jump on the bus, or subway and travel to an office. You worked hard every day. I guess you could say the rewards of that job were the paycheck you received and there was probably a social reward too. The people in the office became your friends and maybe a social life spawned from your workplace. All good. Life was good. The routine was comfortable and sure there were bumps in the routine, but nothing you couldn’t handle.
Then cancer came to play or another serious illness that required you to become a care giver. Big bump in the routine….so much so that your loved one needed you to interrupt that routine and you became a care giver. A new word in the family vocabulary. A new way of living all together.
Your care giving days changed who you were while you were in “training.” Actually it was training on the job and you were the teacher and the student. Did you even notice how absorbed in giving the care you had become? It just sort of happened in my case and I’m sure many of you can relate to what I’m saying. What started as a drive to the doctor or making sure meds were given on time, evolved into an hour by hour attempt to make our loved one’s the best they could be. We wanted them to feel comfortable. We wanted them to be pain free. We wanted them to eat well. We wanted them to stay engaged in the world. And we wanted them surrounded by friends, so they felt included in the world.
I never thought about stepping away from my world and how that would impact me when the care giving stopped. And when it did stop, when Leroy was gone and no one needed my constant attention any more, I was stunned, numb.
How did it get so quiet in the house, all of a sudden? The meds were still on the counter, but there was no need to keep the hour by hour chart any longer. Even the pillows on the bed, where he slept, didn’t need my constant attention. I still only sleep on half the bed.
How can one person be so busy one minute and so alone the next?
We’ve talked about care giving so many times, but we really haven’t talked about AFTER the care giving stops.
Where are we? Who are we after that?