The end of the caregiver’s journey is often introspective, reflective, speckled with regret, remorse, guilt, blame, and the whole gamut of human emotions. You may find yourself feeling guilty for feeling relief, or regret the last things said, or even how you handled specific situations. The point is that at some point the caregiver’s journey does end. We all will process the event in our own way. This will be a personal, individual process, others cannot tell you how to feel, or even when to cry or how to grieve.
Some caregivers will collapse at the end, having given everything through the journey, and now cannot conceive of a world without their charge. Some will remain in “Management mode” handling every last detail, never breaking, and being the rock to everyone else. Or caregivers can react in any of a thousand ways – it depends on the unique situation, and your unique relationship.
For me, I was the Manager type. Always in charge, always the rock. Never asking for help, declining offers of assistance, holding fast to the reigns. At the Hospice, I never cried, I had to stay in charge. However, as I drove home from the Crematorium, my mother’s ashes clutched in my arms, I began to realize that the Strong, Self Sacrificing, Managing, Independent caregiver was only how it looked on the outside. As I drove with my arms locked around what remained of my mother, I felt primitively possessive. I did not want to share, I did not want anyone there with me, I wanted no interruption. I clung so tightly to the box that my arm began cramping. Was all that self-sacrifice, all the dutiful visits, all the Super-woman caregiver behavior really only a primal possessive emotional attachment? Pulling over to a vacant service station, I parked and broke into a cathartic screaming cry. Releasing years and years of pent up frustration, guilt, possessive angst, fear, sadness, anger, loss and grief.
At the end of this journey, I, like all caregivers, had to find the closure, find the path back to our own journey, the one where others wait to walk with us.