Chapter 2: Living with illness and grief
Acknowledging thoughts and feelings
He would sit in a room and say what was happening over and over again. It became frustrating, and then I felt guilty for feeling frustrated – it’s not his fault. I feel sad when I think about how we used to be.
I experienced a range of emotions – a lot of rage and anger at the gods. It has been difficult to see her change from the individual I married to a person that often seems unrecognizable, and one who doesn’t recognize me.
Grief can be accompanied by a very wide range of emotions. Some of your feelings will be connected to the person who is ill, while other feelings will be a response to how you are affected or to the overall situation. Everyone experiences grief differently.
If you have a strong and positive relationship with the person, your grief response may include great sadness for the challenges of their disease or fear about how they will cope. If you’ve had a tenuous or conflicted relationship, you may feel resentment about the burden of caregiving, and disappointment that longstanding difficulties may go unresolved.
You might experience many different, and sometimes conflicting, feelings. You might also experience multiple feelings all at once. Feelings don’t cancel each other out, and you can experience many at the same time. Below are several examples of conflicting feelings that can be held at the same time. Click on each one to read more.
You may feel great sadness for the person who is ill, along with anger that the illness has turned your life upside down.
You may feel relieved to have some answers about what has been taking place, and also regret that you were not understanding or were impatient with the person.
You may feel sincere compassion for the person, while also resenting that so much of your energy is now taken up by the illness.
You may have great patience with some of your caregiving tasks, and little or none with others.
You may sometimes long for a time when you will no longer be a caregiver while also feeling a sense of guilt for “abandoning” the person who is ill.
You may feel gratitude for the support you’ve received, and also feel frustrated and disappointed that more support is not available.
What may help
- Name your thoughts and feelings, even if it feels uncomfortable. By acknowledging them, you might find them easier to sit with. This can also help you to identify what you need and what support might be useful to you.
- Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are part of a normal response to a difficult situation.
- Find ways to express and share thoughts, feelings, or questions. This might be with a trusted friend, family member, or support group; or you might prefer to write or draw about them.
- If you’re struggling with difficult thoughts and feelings, such as anger, resentment, or guilt, don’t keep them to yourself. Perhaps you have thoughts of “wishing it were over” and feel fear or shame. Consider meeting with a professional counsellor who can help you work with these difficult emotions.