Death and grief are going to touch everyone at some point in life; this is part of living. However, if you or someone you know has been a family caregiver, the stress and emotions that come when the person who was being cared for dies can be particularly challenging.
To support a caregiver who is grieving, ask how you can best help and listen for what they seem to need. Express your concern for how the illness is affecting them personally. Be willing to listen, to learn, and to look for ways in which you can support and be helpful.
Even if you have been a caregiver yourself, don’t say you know what they are going through. Empathize by saying, “I am so very sorry,” but don’t say you understand. Each situation is unique and each person responds in ways that are uniquely their own. Even though you may have been a caregiver yourself, you cannot understand this situation from this person’s perspective.
When caregiving ends, it is normal to feel both bereaved and relieved, but caregivers often feel guilty about any feelings of relief they may experience. Remind them that these feelings are normal and common. Caring for a loved one can be exhausting work, but when caregiving ends, time often seems endless. Offer to help grieving caregivers fill their day with meaningful activities. Help them get back into life at a pace that is acceptable to them. Caregivers often haven’t had enough sleep, nor have they eaten well, so encourage a grieving caregiver to obtain adequate rest and nutrition.
One of the best ways to support anyone who is grieving is to be with them; this can be particularly important when someone who has been a caregiver is grieving the loss of a person they cared for.
Your local community hospice can be a source of information to help you or a loved one cope with grief and loss or to find other community resources that may be helpful. You can find a local community hospice at NHPCO.org.