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; for the changes in their loved one when diagnosed with a progressive physical or mental illness; or, for 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 confused. 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 loss can be frightening and debilitating. 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.

Strategies that may help

·         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 27th July, 2017