The Caregiver’s Season of Grief Takes a Village

Karen Coughlin, Hospitality for Healthcare

(ROCKWALL, TX – May 20, 2016) I began this article some time ago only to put it down around the changing circumstances with my father-in-law.   I still find the information important to share however with a sadness knowing he too is now gone.  The following captures a part of the journey we all should understand as we care for our loved ones.

With the passing of my mother-in-law, our family continues to learn about the many stages of grief.  It has come through the eyes and mind of my father-in-law.  Sadness is a heavy burden and creates a struggle to find ways to address the emptiness felt inside.  This seems to go hand in hand with the transition from a caregiver to that of living alone.   There were many difficulties associated with being a caregiver, however a role that required most of our father’s days and it was his routine.   We had often said Alzheimer took away the person we called mom, but it is important to understand what it takes from the caregiver when the journey ends and they begin a new chapter alone.

Our family has realized the care needed for him now is to address his mental needs sometimes more than his physical.  We have found that the oldest generation requires routine and that can be as simple as a short visit daily by a family member.  As simple as this sounds, it takes commitment.   All families have their own schedules and responsibilities; however, it is important to understand this season of grief requires love and attention.

People will handle grief differently and on their own time.  Basically, it doesn’t always happen immediately after the loss.  Most families come together for the traditional memorial service and burial only to return to their regular routines apart.   It is important to listen and observe the following weeks and months.   Giving them the opportunity to talk about their feelings seems to lighten this sadness.  There is no particular subject, just let them talk.

This new chapter has created new needs and conversations.  It has come from our father’s need to ask for help.  This can be a positive step, although difficult for someone that throughout their life has never reached out.  Yes, there will be frustrations and difficult moments, but again it takes patience and sensitivity to understand the new season this person is stepping into.  They are learning to walk alone, no longer caring for their spouse but learning to care for themselves.  It is a new journey and it can be frightening.

Our family is taking steps to face this transition for our father with love and grace.  Families should realize that many hands lighten the responsibilities of helping a family member with grief and sadness.  Yes, each day will be different during this season and families need to become a village of love, helping hands and hearts.

By Rockwall resident Karen Coughlin, Hospitality for Healthcare. Stay tuned for more of her senior aging and healthcare tips at 

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