Grief Reactions of Carers
A Carer is someone who provides care and support for a parent, partner, child or
friend who has a disability, is frail aged, or who has a chronic mental or
physical illness. Carers come from all cultural and social backgrounds and range
greatly in age. Some care for love alone; others provide care from a sense of
obligation. Some provide care 24-hours a day every day; others give care for a
few hours each week.
It is estimated that there are up to 2 million carers in Australia. In South
Australia there are approximately 50,000 principal carers.
Carers may grieve for 'what could have been' when their child is born with a disability;
or for the changes in their loved one when diagnosd with a progressive physical or mental
illness; or the loss of their own lifestyle, dreams and expectations, and the loss of
their own identity.
When someone cared for has died, the carer may experience a range of emotions –
guilt, grief, loneliness, isolation and anger. They may feel that they will not
survive without the person they have cared for, and may feel overwhelmed and
Some people feel a sense of relief at this time, particularly if the person they
have cared for has suffered a great deal. Yet others experience a sense of anger
towards the person they have lost, that the time spent caring has robbed them of
the opportunities to live a 'normal' life, and to achieve their own full potential.
The insecurity following a major los can be frightening and debillitationg. The
feeling of being alone with oneself after the intensity of a caring
experience may add another layer to the feelings of loss and grief. This can be
difficult for some carers to negotiate. Carers are used to supporting the
vulnerabilities in others and may find it hard to allow others to see and
support the vulnerabilities in themselves.
Carers may also experience feelings of loss and grief associated with their
caring role - they have been pivotal and responsible throughout the time that
they have cared for their loved one, and now have lost that role and contact with
the community agencies which have supported them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel you need it. It is better to deal
with your painful memories as soon as you can.
- Releasing pent-up emotions is far healthier than holding them in. If you are
feeling guilty, talk about it, write it down, share it with a trusted friend –
try to express it in some way.
- As a carer your days were probably very busy – there was always a reason to get
up in the morning. It helps to find a new type of structure in your life.
Setting daily goals can assist you in making sure that your days have a purpose.
- Remember that grieving is an important part of healing the sense of loss. Be
patient with yourself.
Page last updated 25th August, 2016