Caring for a dying family member can be overwhelming for caregivers. Often for example, two sisters will share the care for their dying mother. They want to provide care, but the added responsibilities along with the emotions involved create major stress. Both sisters must meet the needs of their own families and may also have full time jobs. As a result marriages suffer from neglect and time for oneself is only a fleeting memory.
When Mom lingers for a long time exhaustion sets in. The sisters may wish the loved one would die, but then feel shame for thinking this. Not to worry. This is a normal part of the grieving process. This does not indicate a lack of care. In fact, it may be a sign of love for Mom since her quality of life is minimal now. Here are some things caregivers can do that will help.
1. Allow yourselves to grieve, each in your own way. Be accepting of each other’s grieving styles. Grieving isn’t a one time event, it’s a process. Though grieving is painful it will relieve some of the stress you’re under. Face your loved one’s coming death and let your tears flow as you feel the sadness.
2. Grieve together. Share your tears with your husband, your siblings, other close family members and close friends. Talk about your concerns and fears about the loved one’s care. Don’t ignore any issue. However, don’t dwell only on the pain and problems. Talk also about happy and humorous memories of your loved one.
3. If your loved one is mentally alert, talk with her about her dying. Listen for her to bring this up or gently do so yourself. It can relieve the dying person to know you are facing this loss and accepting her passing. It may even give her permission to stop fighting for life when there is no hope.
4. Tell your Mom how much you love her and what you appreciate about her. Ask her for forgiveness for ways you’ve hurt her and tell her you have forgiven her for any hurts she’s caused you. Settle all accounts with her. It will help you both. Tell her all this even if you’re not sure she can now understand you. Her spirit will hear you.
5. Take time off from caring for your Mom without feeling guilty. If you’re attempting to help on a daily basis over a lengthy period of time, ask other family members or close friends to relieve you for a day or two each week. Maintain outside interests. Make time for yourself and for your marriage.
6. Share your pain with God. We are conditioned to pray for health and healing so it seems wrong to ask God to take our loved one. But it’s not. God knows our hearts and accepts our deepest emotions.
7. Hang onto your faith. We don’t understand God’s ways. Ask him to help you through these tough times. Read and meditate on Psalm 23. He’s with us even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4