Chapter 4: Grieving as a caregiver

Social isolation

My world got really small. I would go to work and come home. If I wanted to see somebody, they’d have to come to me.

The friend I thought would be there everyday to help support us hasn’t been around. I guess, in some ways, it was too much for her after her own experience. I understand, but it makes me sad because I feel like I’ve lost a friend too.  

Initially, her illness brought support and care from friends and neighbours, but gradually they grew weary. There was little to talk about other than the illness, and they wanted to talk about other things.

Caregiving can be very lonely, especially when a person is ill for a long time. Changes to the body and mind of the person who is ill may have long ago isolated them – and you – from your community. You may find that your isolation increases as the illness progresses or as caregiving needs increase.

Relationships between family members, friends, and community can often be tested when a serious illness is diagnosed. People may not know what to say or how best to support the person who is ill or the people closest to them. Some of your relationships might change as your daily focus and priorities shift. You may find that the people you thought would be there are not able to provide support in the ways you expected. You may, however, be also surprised by those who do help and support you. 

In addition to changed relationships, you may feel a loss of other social connections including work- or volunteer-related ones. You may have had to give up interests, hobbies, or activities that you once took part in or that were important to you. Not only do these losses impact your sense of who you are, but they can also reduce potential sources of support for you, both now and after the ill person has died.

Maintaining relationships in a way that works for you can reduce social isolation and, in turn, help you to feel more supported both as a caregiver and in your grief.

What may help

  • Look for ways to connect with supportive people, whether in person, online, or via email or social media. Even contact with others online can help you feel less isolated and more supported.
  • Reach out and find support that feels comfortable to you and that works for you. Consider looking to co-workers, friends, and community/faith-based networks for support.
  • If people you normally count on aren’t providing the support you need, let them know what you need. Sometimes family or friends want to support you but don’t know how.

Helpful resources
Module 7 – Caring for yourself –
Module 8 – Do I need more help and where do I find it –