Most articles written about caregiving tell you to take care of yourself. Being my own caregiver while providing care for my injured, ill, and then dying husband was not as easy as it sounds. I had a lot to learn in the 16 years he was sick.
For one thing, I was always sad. I had married a man I loved and thought of as my soul mate. Once he was injured, I probably never saw him clearly again. In my mind, he still looked like the young man I met and married, a kind of ’70s version of Steven Segal.
He was one of those eccentric people I think of as a character. I still smile as I think about how outrageous but kind and gentle he was. Several months before we were informed he was dying, he stayed awake in the middle of the night waiting for me to make my nightly walk to the bathroom. I don’t know how long he planned this, but he told me a joke. I still laugh about him waiting who knows how long and planning his joke.
What I just told you about David was to emphasize the following point: Feeling sad during your caregiving experience is normal. Your burden has become heavy. The reality of your sadness sometimes makes you feel like you are doing something wrong.
There is this fantasy that if you were just mentally healthy enough, you wouldn’t feel so bad. Unfortunately, there are many people who would agree with that fantasy. They might even try to “help” you by telling you so.
Taking Care of Myself
Self-care in your sadness is quite difficult and crucial. I had to accept my reality, the painful sadness, and all the losses my reality included. I had to ignore thoughtless comments from others. And I had to learn to support and comfort myself when no one else could.
Self-talk was important. I told myself, “It’s OK to be sad.”
Sometimes, I imagined giving myself a hug. Or I held my pillow and told myself, “I’m doing a good job.”
At other times, I told myself: “I’m a good person;” “This is not my fault;” “Just because other people do not understand doesn’t make me wrong;” and “it’s good that I can be myself.”