The last year of my life has had beautiful moments (I got married in a Town Hall built in the 1600s in the Netherlands) and not so beautiful moments (think doctor and hospital visits with numerous tests for my husband.) My husband was diagnosed with two kinds of cancer in early 2016. One was treated and gone. The other in a non-active state. This year, other issues showed up and it took 10 months to get answers. Over the last four to five months I realized I was a caregiver.
This isn't my first time being a caregiver. I did it for short periods for my ex-husband when he was treated for cancer, and one of our twins. Those were short periods of intense caregiving. It was different than this period of caregiving and in some ways I felt I had it 'all together' then and now, not so much.
Considering my husband has been relatively healthy since treatment ended, I never labeled myself as a caregiver. Never really saw myself in that role for him, especially since we live on two different continents many months of the year. Distance doesn't matter - I'm always energetically with him even when we are thousands of miles apart.
Recently, a friend who had been a caregiver for her husband for 10+ years spoke with me about things I was feeling - anger, resentment, hope, love, fear, frustration........she identified two things for me. Anticipatory Grief and Caregiver Burnout. Grief for what may come, the uncertainty of what is, and the grief+fear of the future. Burnout because I give so much to my husband (and kids and business and everyone else) that I am often left off the list of 'to be taken care of.'
I did some research into both and finally had a name for the emotions I was feeling and realized I was not alone in what I was experiencing. While my energetic healer side of me says, 'don't label' and get stuck in that energy - for me it has been healing. I have been able to acknowledge it, journal about it, and make some peace and release of it. I'm also using my experience to help others.
Through my research and speaking with my genealogy and military clients the last few years in particular, many of them have been a caregiver or are currently a caregiver, for a veteran or ill or aging family member. Many of them are not aware of the resources available to help them through the caregiving experience.
My hope is through articles, webinars, and resources I provide in this space, many of us will learn better ways to cope with what IS. My hope is we will all start writing our stories, whatever that is for you - in a private journal, on a blog dedicated to your caregiving journey, an article for a magazine, or a book about your experience.
Are you a caregiver? How are you coping with what IS in your life right now? Are you recording your story? What are you doing to take care of yourself?
The Caregiver Space is a new website I've discovered that has a tremendous amount of resources for anyone who provides care. The website is even broken down into specific types of caregiving and coping mechanisms.
© 2018 Jennifer Holik