Taking Care of Yourself After a Parent You Took Care of Dies

Caring for an aging parent is challenging – emotionally and physically. Even if your parent has a paid caregiver who comes into their home or they live in nursing home, you likely still spend a great deal of time with them. And when you aren’t with your parent, they are always on your mind.

When a parent you have cared for dies, you are likely to feel a wide range of emotions. The loss of parent is never easy. If you have spent a great deal of your time involved in the day-to-day care and support of your parent, that loss is compounded by a feeling of no longer being needed.

While many people are reluctant to talk about it, there also can be a sense of relief when a parent who has been in pain or suffering dies. This sense of relief can lead to an enormous amount of guilt.

So what does an adult child do after their caregiving duties are no longer needed? How do they move on to the next stage of the lives? What follows are some suggestions – remembering that every situation is unique and everyone has their own way of grieving.

  1. Try to avoid thinking about what you could have done differently. No one is perfect and you did your best. Consider talking with people who have been through this same thing and get their advice on how to move past these thoughts.
  2. Acknowledge that grief and relief can co-exist. Caring for an elderly loved one can be exhausting and stressful. That doesn’t mean you didn’t love you parent. Seeing a parent suffer is never easy, either, so wanting them to be free from that suffering doesn’t make you a bad person – quite the opposite.
  3. Try to focus on the good memories you made with your parent. We can all focus on the negative aspects of our lives but it is important to try to concentrate on the positive interactions you had with your parent. In the case of dementia, this may be difficult, especially if they didn’t treat you well because of the disease.
  4. Consider talking to a professional. If your parent received hospice care at the end of their life, you may want to check out the grief support services these organizations often offer. If you feel unable to go on, you should seek the help of a professional mental health counselor. There is no reason to go it alone and some people need help figuring out how to adjust to life without their parent.
  5. Volunteer your time. If you feel up to it, consider volunteering your time a few hours a week or even once a month. Helping others can help get your mind off of your grief and is a good reminder that life does go on.

Caring for an elderly or sick parent leaves little time for self-care. While taking care of yourself may seem like something you don’t even know how to do, it is important to try. Only then will you be able to move forward, confident that is what your parent would want you to do.