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How are you doing today? As a former caregiver to my beloved mother, I have found it really difficult adjusting to my new life without her. She was my everything. Now, I am starting to think about going back out into the workforce. Hubs and I are planning a move out of this neighborhood where I shared so many memories with her. It scares me... no, it terrifies me. I almost feel like if I move on, my mom really is gone. Are there any other former caregivers out there who feel the same? Plus, are there any caregivers out there who would like to share how they managed to be successful moving on?

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I am in a very different place than the rest of you who have commented so far. I took care of my mom and dad for 9 years and my mom for an additional 6 years (15 years in total). She died two months ago. We had a very good relationship and I did everything I could to make her life and death as comfortable as possible. She died after a week in hospice, in her own bed with me there. My brother didn't bother to come back for her last week (or for the past seven years for that matter).

I'm single, never married. But over the past three years, because I saw this coming, I have cultivated a newer group of good women friends through different meetup groups who supported me as my mom was entering her final phase of life.

At the end, I had said everything I wanted to say and she was ready to go (at 97.5), which made it much easier on me. I took a job for the past year for a non-profit that has been very emotionally satisfying for me. It is coming to an end in another month. Rather than being fearful, I am ready to spread my wings (at almost 67) and do some traveling and just enjoying life. And then I'll figure out my next adventure and purpose.

The visiting nurse told me that my mom was very worried about me and whether I'd be OK after she went. I'm more than OK, I'm at peace and greatly relieved that my mom went out exactly as she wanted to. I'm not sad about her passing, I'm just grateful for the time we spent and that I was able to make her life as good as it was. I did everything I could and left nothing on the table.

My friends keep asking me if I'm OK and I am! I closed out her apartment by myself, have pretty much settled her estate, am sorting through her things that I brought to my place...I have only happy memories, not sadness. I hope the rest of you can find peace and purpose in the coming months. It's a great place to be after devoting so much time and energy to caregiving for our parents.
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One thing I did to help adjust to my parents passing [a year within each other, they were in their 90's] was that I started climbing the family tree with the help of Ancestry plus my Dad had already started a search which I never knew about until I cleaned out their house. It was THE best therapy for me. Being an only child who always lived far away from my grandparents and the other relatives, this brought me closer.

My Dad's grandfather was a professional photographer so my parents had inherited a lot of family portraits, mainly of people I had no clue who they were. It was fascinating seeing how they dressed in the 1800's and the type of work they did. One of my Dad's Aunts had her doctor's degree in chemistry which was very unusual back then. She lived to be 103, never married. Dad had two uncles who both each had a dozen of children. Other relatives had a half dozen. Farming was the main occupation thus a lot of farm hands were needed, so you created your own.

It also was interesting to see the cause of death in the family to see what health issues were passed from generation to generation. Hypertension seemed to be the main issue, which I have. I always was curious where I had inherited a slight lazy left eye which corrected itself once I got out of my teens, and looking through all the old family photos, ah ha there it was, my great-great-grandfather had the same lazy left eye when he was in his teens.
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Dear Gershun,

Thank you for asking this question. I feel the same, my friend. I find it terribly hard. I won't stop ruminating about the past and what could have been done to save my dad. My failures loom large and torment me still. Some people around me have also suggested moving out of the neighborhood. It is a consideration. But at the same time, I feel like I am erasing my dad from my life. Maybe that is the grief again. One step forward and then 10 steps back.

I do try and take baby steps in moving forward. I have tried counselling, grief supports, reading, writing and taking classes to occupy myself. I know I still have a lot of years ahead of me. I should live well in honor of my dad, but I continue to wish he was still here.

Thank you for always thinking of us caregivers. And for remaining so compassionate and kind.
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My Dad passed away last Sept. I was so busy still with Moms care that it never fully registered. But, when Mom passed last month...I was simply lost. Suddenly..I was actually alone. Alone in their big house...surrounded by all the stuff of a lifetime.

I have spent nearly all my waking hours staying busy. Sorting the house and getting it ready for sale. Selling or giving away a small mountain of stuff. Sorting the papers (Mom never threw any paper out). Sorting her accounts, and finding everything.

The rest of my time is being spent getting my RV ready to hit the road. I plan to spend this coming winter in the desert near the Arizona/Mexican border.

So..the answer for me is...staying busy.
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Gershun, I was not the one-on-one caregiver for my mom, but we spoke by phone daily and she and I became adult friends after a rocky road for many years. I miss her every day, but I look for her in my son, nephews, etc. I think life after caregiving is much like life after children move out - my son moved out and I was his focused caregiver due to his autism. He is doing well now and requires far less attention which left a part of me a little adrift. Having a part time job makes a HUGE difference. My sister found that living in Mom's house after she died actually added to her depression. Find the things that are your mom in living items, not a location or objects. Maybe take a gardening class - volunteer to be a child advocate - join a bowling league - heck, my mom taught Vacation bible school through her church for years without being a member to transition after my brother died. Hugs to ya.
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Dear Gershun,

I'm so sorry to hear about what happened at your mom's memorial bench.

I hear where are you coming from. I have promised friends to stop ruminating and to try and focus on the present. They tell me, do not think about the past or even future, just the present. I too led a very quiet life. I made my life about my dad. The part that is holding me the back is also the anger with the siblings. My dad lived to 84 but I feel if they had helped me, supported me, he would still be alive today. They say that grief could last up to 5 years. I am still working with a grief counsellor to understand my feelings.

I found this letter at griefincommon.org, I hope many of you will find it helpful:

“Dear Self,

Being a caregiver is hard. It is an honor and it is a privilege, but it is HARD.

At times I feel I should know more, or do more – yet I can only know or do what I am capable of knowing or doing.

While I may have support from friends, family and the medical establishment, in the end- the decisions rest entirely on my shoulders.

I have no ability to predict the future. I don’t know what treatment, pill or therapy is going to work or not going to work. I can’t say for certain that the choice I’m making is the right one or wrong one. I lack the ability to stand at a crossroads and simultaneously take each road so I know which will have the best outcome. I am always crossing my fingers, spinning the wheel of chance, and hoping for the best.

I need to remind myself that at most points in life there are rarely clear cut right and wrong answers and usually a whole lot of grey area answers somewhere in between.

I have to remind myself that the person I’m caring for has choices, and has made choices, and that I am not (or have ever been) totally in control of what happens.

I need to remind myself that I’m doing my best or that I have done my best. Some days my best was not very good. I need to forgive myself for that. If I’m telling myself that I didn’t do my best, or not as well as I could have, I will remind myself that I also never set out to do harm or do things badly.

I need to release myself from guilt for any thoughts I may have had about wanting this to be over. It will serve me better to remember that I have only ever wished away a time of confusion, pain and exhaustion. There was never a time where I didn’t want my loved one here with me, healthy and happy.

I need to let go of things that have happened. If a decision has been made and I feel I “should” have done it differently or better, I need to remind myself that no amount of thinking, ruminating, or obsessing about what has happened in the past can change or improve my present or future.

I will devote my thoughts to my loved one – who they are or were, what they have meant in my life, and what they would want for me in my future. If I feel myself sliding back into the “should” haves and “shouldn’t” haves, I will feel their loving influence direct me back to a path of caring for myself.

I will struggle and I will persevere. I will be gentle and patient with myself. I will take help when it’s offered and when I feel it’s right. I will take time to be by myself when I need it, and I will try to surround myself with people who understand what I’m going through, if that is what will help get me through the day.

I will do all of this. And I will do it every day, until I no longer need to do it any more.“

For anything that’s left – if there are apologies you want to make, or forgiveness you need to find for an apology you know you’ll never get, for the “should have” and “shouldn’t have” thoughts that circle endlessly in your head, write them down.

Recognize how freeing putting our thoughts on paper can be. Releasing them from a mind that will never let them rest, to a piece of paper where they can be recognized, honored and finally freed.

Know that sometimes, the tangible act of writing to yourself or your loved one may be the only thing that’s left to do. And perhaps the only way to free ourselves, forgive ourselves, and move ahead.

____________________________________________
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Another thought, it is interesting how each of us view the passing of a loved one. My sig other and I are polar opposites to this passing of time.

My sig other had lost many family members and all I know about them is the one week or the day of their passing. My gosh, these wonderful people spent decades on earth and all sig other can talk about his their death. Over and over again. Like the people died on purpose to make him so sad. Sig other's grown daughter is like that, too.

Both my parents were raised on a farm so the circle of life was always present. When their parents and relatives passed, they were sad but before I knew it they were taking about good memories of those love ones. Thus I had learned from them.
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My mother died three months ago and she was 100 years old. She had dementia and heart disease but she was strong enough that she would attend the local senior center with her caretaker each weekday. She would pray for all the other seniors and they all loved her and they all looked up to her as the matriarch of all the other seniors, many in poorer health than she. I was born when she was 40 years old and I was her only son out of my four older sisters. My father died in 1996 at age 84 years. She lived alone from age 79 until I was able to move from my teaching job at a university when she turned 83. In the 17 years that I was with her, she was still very strong, but she started to have falls while I was at work and about 5 years ago, she fell and broke her right arm. She was 95 at the time. I moved out of my room and set up a bed next to hers. I set up the room so that if she needed to use the porta potty that I set up next to her bed, I would be able help her. I was able to find a great person to care for her during the day and when I arrived from work, I would take over her care. I remained single and I was devoted to her. In these last 5 years, we truly traded places. She grew more fragile and the dementia increased and she became totally dependent upon me. I used this website to teach me about incontinence, UTI, sundowners syndrome, and so many other skills that a male caretaker needed to learn. My sisters helped me when they could but for these last 5 years, she was my main responsibility. She was my everything as well. She became my reason for living. It the 3 months that she has been gone, it has been very hard. I miss her a great deal. When people hear that she reached 100 years, they say that she lived a long life. While I do realize that, and while I do remember the hard times, such as her insomnia, the incontinence throughout the night, the fearful trips to the ER, Docs in a Box, when she was ill, the dementia, the anxiety she had over her girls which she saw as adolescents when they were in reality in their 60s, I miss her very very much. I cry most days, I feel lost at times. I go to counseling, I read books on grief, I garden and take care of her beloved roses. I build an altar to remember her at home and I have photos of her throughout the house. While I am not much of a traveler, I have plans to work around the house and on the house that she left me. That is what she wanted me to do fix up the house. My job keeps me busy but now I know that I also need to reach out to my family. I know I need to reinvent my life. My mom was interviewed for her 100th year birthday and she said, "When I die, don't cry for me, pray for me instead that God will grant me joy and comfort in heaven. And I pray for her everyday and I pray that God will help me find a new purpose to live my life for. To all the former caretakers, I am now a member of the club and I am grateful for all of you and what we did for our loved ones. I know we will find our way.
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I'm starting to think its minute by minute some days. My other suggestion would be to find ways to honor your parent's memory. I thought about planting a tree, buying a memorial bench, donating to my father's favorite charity and ensuring he has fresh flowers at his grave site. My father was such a quiet man, but I still want to do things to make him proud of me.
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cdnreader, I have a memorial bench for my Mom at her favorite park that was right across from her old apartment bldg. where she lived for many years. It's a five- minute walk from my place too so I can go there and visit and reflect. Sadly, they found a 13- year old's dead body there this week which saddens me, for the obvious reasons but also cause it's put a blemish on the park for me.

I think getting over a parent's death is so dependent on the kind of relationship you had with them when they were living. My Mom and I were so very close. I just don't even know who I am without her and I have had two whole years now to figure it out.
She was my best friend and I never went out and tried to make other friends. So now it's just me and my husband and my cats. I have siblings but we aren't really close. I am still so mad at all of them for how they left me holding the bag when mom was dying. How does a person get over all of that? I'm still hoping someone will come on here and shine some light on this but also I am well aware that we are all individuals and what works for some may not work for everyone.
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