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Jamie had been caring for her mother, Carol, since Carol was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than eight years ago. Jamie enjoyed the "good" days with Carol and endured the bad ones, but she never waivered in her devotion to her mother. She was her mother's champion even when the rest of the family could no longer handle the situation. Now, Carol has been gone for nearly two months and Jamie's family can't figure out why she won't let her mother go.
Grief is an incredibly personal process. It can last from a few days to a few years. For some, it may only be a general sense of sadness, but for others it can be crippling. The grieving process is affected by many factors, including belief systems, religion, life experiences and the type of loss suffered. We can experience grief emotionally, physically and even spiritually.
Emotional symptoms of grief include memory gaps, distraction or preoccupation, irritability, depression, euphoria, rage and resignation. Physically, grief can cause low energy or exhaustion, headaches, stomach upset and changes in sleep patterns (either too much or not enough). Spiritually, grief can strengthen religious beliefs or make an individual challenge or reject them. It is generally believed that grief is a process with distinct stages, including emotional release, depression, guilt, anger, hope and acceptance.
Grief is a natural response to loss. Caregivers can experience grief not just from the loss of life, but from the loss of living. Caregivers can experience loss from witnessing the pain, sadness and difficulties of a loved one on a regular basis. They also may lose some of their own independence, including sacrificing goals and personal satisfaction to care for another. Then, when the loved one passes away, they may feel as though their own life has lost its purpose and direction.
Some people are easily overwhelmed with grief and find it difficult to function day to day. For caregivers, this often isn't an option while our loved ones are still with us. This gives caregivers a unique opportunity to manage their grief over time. There are many things a caregiver can do to help minimize and deal with grief.
Jamie's grief started long before her mother died and may seem out of proportion to those around her. It is important that she be allowed to grieve in her own way, but she also needs to take ownership of her grief and seek help from loved ones, friends and, where appropriate, professionals.