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This may be a sensitive subject but I need to ask. The caregivers on these forums - of which I am one - are able to vent and find possible solutions to the problems of caregiving but what happens after the family member passes on. Do you finally get your life back and find some peace? I am sure that most of us would say this has been worth it but I would love to hear from the folks that have gone thru this and come out the other end. Do you still come to the forum?

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First of all, each person's response is unique...I just lost my mother after caring for her for years. To think that there is a sudden return to normal seems unrealistic because I need to find a new normal. I think being kind and patient to yourself as you have to your loved one for so long, is important to do for yourself, as you adjust to all of the changes. And there are many many changes. But each day offers an opportunity to start new creative things that you enjoy that have been 'shelved' for so long. Some may work, some won't. I'm trying to relearn how to play the piano with an electronic keyboard and reconnect with a previous employer to consider part-time work in a few months. There are many support groups for grieving people...Hospice offers a wonderful supportive network. I believe this forum is also an opportunity to know that you're not alone. There is life after your loss, but it's probably a new life that may look a little different...after all, we've had the privilege of an experience that many shy away from. Let's allow that to broaden our perspective on ourselves as well.
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Over the past two years I have had a loved one in both situations....my mother placed herself in a home several years ago, this was what she wanted and I made sure she was close to me so that I could see her whenever I could. My mother-in-law was moved into a private home, attached to our home, when she could no longer care for herself. A year ago we had to place her in a nursing home as I was no longer physically able to care for her. My mother passed away in 2010 and I still miss her, but with her being in a home it didn't impact my life as much. I was so busy taking care of my mil that I didn't have time to sit and grieve, which I think for me was better. The day we moved my mil to the NH, I came home, looked around and just sat down. I listened to the quiet all around me, I looked around at things that I had neglected in my own life, I thought about how much better it was going to be on my mil because the home had the means to lift her, which I was no longer able to do. Then I started to think about the things I used to enjoy that I could now start doing again without interruption. It's not an overnight accomplishment; it takes time to get yourself back. For some, care giving becomes such an all-encompassing role that they forget about themselves and the fact that they still have a life and personality separate from care giving. It does take a toll on our mental and physical health and I am a great advocate for doing everything possible to keep a part of yourself "away" from the care giving. I know that's not possible for some, as there are no family members or others to take over occasionally. The transition can be easier by acknowledging that this cycle of life will continue, the inevitable will happen, and then it will be time to pick up your life and continue on your own journey.
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I wanted to answer this for you as well. Things don't get back to "normal" for quite a while. Yes, the stress from caretaking is gone, but for me, the guilt started right after that. "What could I have done better for her?" Why did I lose my patience with her at times? I think there is a whole set of things that happen to each person and as they said above...each person is different. My mom passed away in April and it's still very very raw to me. Christmas is here and my mom isn't. It's been difficult for me but I'm continuing with life. It's strange because after caring for mommy, I decided to go back to college to get my degree in Social Work so that I could work with the elderly. I actually miss the caretaking and of course, the love my mom gave me. I now want to give back and I'm 54 so I had better start now LOL. I don't think I'll ever get over missing mommy and there are many times that something happens that I get the urge to call her. Many times when I've done something that I don't think my mom would approve of and I still get the Uh-oh feeling in my gut. I then immediately realize she's gone and that's been the hardest for me. She was my moral compass per se and she was the last immediate person in the family who knew me as a child. Now, those memories are locking inside me but there's no one to share them with who remembers. All that being said, I'm slowly getting on with life. It's different and it's emotional. I feel like an orphan now but I do have other family and I'm continuing to try and keep a good outlook. I hope this didn't bother you but I wanted you to have a very "real" perception of what it's like. Enjoy your loved one somehow now. The days become very short. Hugs and best wishes to you.
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I am in the same boat - my husband of 46 years suffered a massive stroke after a minor surgery and the world I knew was gone. He didn't recognize me, but somehow trusted me enough to let me take care of him. After rehab I took him home - there was never any question about that. And then vascular dementia set in and that was an all together different situation. Still, he was my husband, my life, and because he had become terrified of strangers, outside help was out of the question too. I took care of him for 11 months, 24/7 until he died peacefully in my arms. I thought knowing he was finally at peace would be comfort enough for me. Wrong - the guilt set in. Could I have done more? etc. You see, the problem is that your brain and your heart are not in sync. In your heart you know you did what was best for him but the brain keeps nagging. He died 7 months ago, and like Catjohn 22, something triggers the flow of tears. I sometimes find myself standing in the middle of our house and ask myself "now what?" As difficult as it was taking care of him, I still miss his little smile, the squeeze of his hand in mine, to let me know he feels safe.

I can't listen to Christmas music, not yet - I do love music, mostly classical. So I have been listening constantly to that. It helps, it keeps the "what if's" at bay. I started grieving the loss of him the day he had the stroke and I thought it would get easier once he was at peace. Wrong! Once you recover from the exhaustion it hits you again, hard. So, as you can see, I am still struggling. And yes, I am still reading this board on the daily basis, and part of me wishes I still could take care of him. But that is a very selfish wish on my part. He was such a brilliant mind and deep down he knew and felt what he had lost - his eyes and that sad little smile told me more then he could have done if he would have been able to speak.

As others have said, each person is individual, grieving is a long road, but in the end the sweet memories of the one you loved will replace the pain. As for getting your life back, I am still working on it.
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This timely question just popped up in my email inbox this morning. I had just been sitting listening to a Christmas song and crying, thinking about Christmases of years ago. My husband and I and our three sons always spent Christmas Eve at my in-law's house. Except for one other son, who was sometimes here for Christmas and sometimes not, we were their only immediate family, and our children were their only grandchildren. We had such good times. This is the first Christmas without them. My FIL passed away two years ago at Christmas, in assisted living, and my MIL just passed a little more than a week ago. We had always been close, but the past few years our lives had become much more intertwined when my in-laws finally became unable to care for themselves in their home. When they were both 90, my father in-law had a bad fall and had head trauma, which left him dependent on a wheelchair. We first helped them to get into assisted living in the same city where we live, about 25 miles from their home of 34 years. My MIL's dementia rapidly increased with that move and when her husband passed away, things really escalated. She was doing very poorly after being moved to the "memory care" floor of AL, and we ended up moving her back to her house. I left my job and became full-time caregiver. That was 20 months ago. We had just called in Hospice two days before she died, and she went very quickly and peacefully, but we weren't expecting this quite yet. We thought she would be with us through the holidays. Now, the funeral is over, the hospice equipment has been removed and the house is so empty and quiet. It feels nothing at all like Christmas Eve today, but I am trying to muster the energy to do some baking. I wrote a few Christmas cards, but even that was hard. My MIL's death affected me much more deeply than I had expected. I felt that I had been preparing myself, and the evening of her death I was mostly calm; everything felt sort of surreal for quite awhile. Since that night, I find myself crying at the oddest times. I have never lost a child, but this feels to me rather like what I imagine that must feel like. Maybe my caregiving energy just hasn't figured out where to channel itself yet, but this loss has hit me much harder than I ever expected. While I'm comforted that this 93 year old woman who has been wanting nothing more than to "go home" for the past few years is now at peace, something definitely seems to be missing in my life. I know that I will adjust eventually, just as I adjusted to the arrangement of being her caregiver. That felt very strange at first, but over the first few months we settled into a quiet and calm routine that worked about as well as possible for rest of the time that we lived that way. I was separated from my life for a long time, too, especially the past 20 months, and so there were two women in this house who were longing to "go home." As some others posting here, I can't imagine ever regretting the decision to help my MIL through her struggle. The grief will eventually pass, but the memories and lessons will remain forever.
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Hi, My Motherinlaw died suddely Dec 2 and I have felt so lost. My life was busy and I took on alot of responsibility for her. It has been hard and will take time.
At times I looked forward to the time my husband and I could be alone and have the house to ourselves after she lived with us for about 11 years.
I miss her, we were very close even though I got tired and frustrated at times.
The past three weeks I have been in a fog and lost. There is alot to do to clean out her room, clothes and papers. Alot of calls to be made and business to deal with.
I see her everywhere in the house. Some of her clothes show up in the laundry and it makes me sad.
I am glad she is isn't suffering but the way she died was horrible and I will never forget how she looked in the ER and died 4 hours later.
So many people have checked on us especially at church worrying about how we are. Mom seemed to be very well liked and cared about.
My goal is to get back into the things I want to do like piano Mom always liked to hear me practice, lose weight, finish projects at home to get organized and volunteer.
We had a new grandbaby born on Nov 28 and Mom died Dec 2 so it is bittersweet.
All I can say is take each day as it comes, feel what your feeling and if you can help someone else do it.
There is a huge void and I haven't quite learned how to relax since our lives were so centered around Mom's schedule, needs, Dr appts and so on.
I can now just leave my house and not have to worry if Mom is ok, how she feels and it is different having to relearn or undo what I did for over a year.
Take some time to rest and relax.
Grieve and cry when you need to. Remember the good times and hold on to those who are still here.
I hope you will find some peace.
It has only been three weeks for us and it is still hard.
Take care of yourself.
Remember your not alone.

No longer frustrated2012
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It is a difficult question, and I'm still coping with it 4 years after becoming a former caregiver. It's hard to redefine yourself and get a "new you" once you've become a caregiver. I still participate in monthly caregiver support groups to help encourage new caregivers. I use my caregiver skills to help others struggling with caregiving. After church, I also help a woman in a wheelchair with toileting (because her husband cannot help her in the ladies' room). I think my identity as a caregiver has become a part of the "new me".
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Wow, what a courageous question with a million possible answers. Each can only relate his/her own experience. I am taking a year "off"-- I am not making any big decisions and am fully giving myself over to what it means to be on earth without a parent. I only cared for my mother one year, but I had lived so far away from her for so long, I moved closer to her about 5 years ago. Closer, as in across the road! My father died in 2005 and she was finally learning to live life on her own when she was diagnosed with cancer. I am grateful she didn't linger and was gone in 11 months time. She is still "here" and I make an effort to do at least one good thing every day that would make her proud. You will go on and you will be different. Only you can be sure to become someone better than before.
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Maybe I'm not the most typical member but I had been taking care of both parents since 2008. My Mom passed away on October 31st - the eve of All Saints Day. Even though my Dad still needs care, I feel lost without my Mom to take care of. One thing, though, I am sure of - it was definitely worth everything to make sure Mom had what she needed.

Both Mom and Dad (especially Mom) wanted to continue living at home for as long as possible. Since Mom had multiple healthcare issues, including uncontrollable seizures, I think it was best to have as much one-on-one attention and towards the end, it was two-on-one attention.

I, too, am interested to find out what happens when both parents are gone. How do you get your life back?
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I have no idea what we do after this. I think at first it is generally quite busy with handling the affairs and belongings and business. I also think we may all need to get a lot of sleep. Friends and family are all around and helpful for a while. After that it's up to us. Seems to me that we need to lay the groundwork for life after caring, by not letting go of our friends, interests, and by taking good care of ourselves, as best we can, so that health problems don't sideline us. If we can care so diligently for our loved ones, we can care for ourselves equally well.
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