by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 1, 2019 anticipatory grief, burn out, caregiver fatigue, grieving the loss of a parent, self care during grief, terminally ill0 comments
12 Ways to Take Care of Yourself when your Parent is Terminally Ill
If your parent is facing terminal illness, you as their child may be encountering some of the greatest stress of your life. The mounds of grief will have presented themselves long before the end of their life comes and while caring for yourself is likely the last thing on your mind, it is the most important thing you should do in these days, weeks, and even years. Here are 12 ways to care for yourself when your parent is terminally ill.
- Be aware of your own guilt, guilt has a way of creeping into everything that surrounds illness, death, and even contributes to complicated grief. If your parent is in the hospital very ill, you may feel guilty to do anything other than sit by their side so compulsively you will stay with them to avoid the burden of your guilt. The thing is with this kind of irrational guilt, nothing you do will ever be enough to stop it from effecting you. You must label your feeling as irrational guilt and accept your need for some balance and self-care in the rush of your parent’s illness.
- Practice mindfulness. One of the ways that our emotions become very unmanageable is the we often want to repress or avoid them. We become so busy with the act of doing that we dismiss the great segment of our humanness that is always feeling. Noticing our feelings and the way the effect our bodies, our breathing, our thinking, is a huge asset especially in difficult moments. Even as simple as observing, “I am angry, I am sad’ can help to reinforce our wellness and prevent us from acting out unconsciously.
- Become versed in grief and learn about anticipatory grief, the actual human tendency to begin grieving the loss of someone we love long before their life reaches its end. Anticipatory grief is one of many kinds of grief that you may notice if caring for a terminally ill loved one.
- Sadness related to bereavement and grief has a way of reordering our priorities to be more aware of what is important. Take advantage of this tendency to make use of it, for instance, the petty grievances that you might feel for a loved one fade aware in the dusk of their mortality and what remains is often love. Trimming the lawn to perfection or finishing the next race may seem less important and what takes center stage is often being with and appreciating others.
- Make sleep a priority, even when your schedule is crumbling and your heart is heavy having good sleep hygiene and making it to your own bed to rest will always be one of the best ways to keep yourself strong, healthy, and emotionally balanced.
- Understand what compassion fatigue, caregiver fatigue and burnout are and how they may be effecting you greatly in this time of immense hurt and stress.
- Eat a balanced diet, if you are rushing around in the hospital or caring for your parent in your home you may not feel you have the time to prepare healthy meals. Make time for them anyways, by fueling your body with nourishing foods you will be stronger and more vital to care for those around you in this difficult time.
- Find acceptance, it is sometimes hard to see that your parent is in the process of dying, instead we may react with denial and anger which make the emotional toll even harder on you as the individual. By stating to yourself that this is in fact the final process of your parent’s life you will be better able to readjust your approach to be sensible and supportive.
- Spend some time in nature. The outdoors from the trees to the grass and the leaves are wonderful teachers when it comes to the spectrum of life, ever watch a small bud unfurl from the soil and see a dry crumbled leaf next to it? That is everything we ever need to know about life.
- Anticipate that stress and sickness often bring out the worst in families, if there are at least a couple of people in your family tree who are notorious for being aggressive, addicted, selfish, or any other socially uncomfortable thing, this will likely present in heightened state. Armor yourself with anticipation and your best efforts for detachment as they visit your parent’s bedside.
- Activate your social supports, let people know what is happening in your life so that they can help. Sometimes we fear burdening other’s so we become silent in our grief. You might find that if you talk to others about what is happening and how you are feeling you will be supported and the sense of connection will help you.
- Make time for exercise, even if you are not a fitness guru, it is a great time to start walking or jogging. Exercise is an immediate help in releasing stress. You will benefit from better sleep and calmer mood if you activate this wellness skill.
Remember that the most important time for self care isn’t when you are bored but when you are busiest and feel that you can’t possibly find a minute in your day as these our the times when we need care the most.Learn More