Caring for someone can become a major part of your life. When that person dies, as well as being a huge loss to you personally, it can leave a space in your life that can at first be hard to fill, especially if you're feeling unsure of yourself.
The death of the person you cared for can come as a great shock, no matter how ‘prepared’ you thought you were. Don’t try and deal with the bereavement on your own, and be prepared to grieve in your own way, and on your own terms. As well as grieving for the person, you may grieve for the loss of your caring role.
A sense of loss is normal, but it's also quite common to feel a sense of relief, especially if the person you cared for had to battle a long illness. As their carer, you would have been the person closest to them, witnessing their suffering and, no doubt, wishing that their suffering could be at an end.
Five stages of grief
It is said that there are five stages of grief, however, everyone is different and you may not experience all the stages.
- Denial - shock, numbness, can't believe it, feels unreal, empty. Can't cope with routine tasks
- Guilt - 'I should have done'. 'I wish I'd not done'. Feel irritable and critical of previous actions
- Anger - 'why has this happened?', 'It's not fair'. Feel hurt, unhappy and restless
- Sadness - feel low, depressed, despair, nothing will be the same. May lose identity and self-worth
- Acceptance - can take a fairly long time. Life won't be the same, but different. There will still be down days, but also good days.
Coping with grief
Coping well (being resilient) is not about forgetting the person you have lost or the pain of grief going away. It is about finding a way to live with the loss, and adjust to the changes this has brought.
There are practical things to do after someone dies which will probably keep you very busy at first, such as registering the death, planning the funeral and dealing with financial matters. There may also be lots of friends and family around to support you in the days after the person you cared for has died. So you may not have time to think about how you feel at first.
You may find the death of the person you cared for hits you the hardest after the funeral, when everyone else has gone back to their day-to-day lives and you are left starting a new phase of your life on your own. Don't be afraid to talk about how you feel to friends and family. It often helps to talk to those people who knew you both and especially those who understood what you, as the carer, experienced. It will help to share memories of the person who has died, maybe look at old photographs and talk about the memories they envoke. It can be painful to look back but it can also be very comforting.
If such people aren't available to talk to or you don't feel able to, there are a number of grief counselling organisations that will offer a friendly ear and some well-chosen words of advice.
As well as providing end of life care, some hospices also offer bereavement support.
Blythe House Hospice in Chapel-en-le-Frith have a bereavement service for people who have suffered the death of someone close to them. They also offer bereavement support to children, including young carers.
Treetops Hospice Care in Risley offers a bereavement counselling and emotional support service which is available to all users of Treetops Hospice Care services and people living in Derby city and Southern Derbyshire. They also have services to support young people who've suffered a bereavement.
Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield offer bereavement support and counselling to families, carers and children (including young carers) and run bereavement support groups both at Ashgate Hospice and within the community. You can contact Ashgate to use the service or you can be referred by a professional such as your GP or district nurse.
More support services are listed on the Carers Directory in the 'end of life / bereavement support' category.
Cruse Bereavement Derbyshire and East Staffordshire offer support, advice and information to bereaved people. Cruse offers face-to-face, telephone, email and website support. You can contact their national helpline on tel: 0808 808 1677 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bereavement Advice Centre supports and advises people about what they need to do after a death tel: 0800 634 9494
North Derbyshire Voluntary Action (NDVA) have a directory of local community groups who can help support your emotional wellbeing.
Sue Ryder Online Community is a place to share experiences, get things off your chest, ask questions and chat to other people who understand what it's like to lose a loved one.
Macmillan have lots of helpful information about coping with bereavement on their website. They also have a helpline tel: 0808 808 0000
Emotional and mental wellbeing practical advice to improve your emotional and mental health wellbeing.
Starting to move on
It can be difficult to know what to do with your life after your caring role ends. You may feel daunted at the prospect of trying new things but resting and letting yourself have a break now your caring role has ended, is just as important as taking on a new endeavour. Take time to look after yourself, perhaps giving yourself a few treats or a holiday, which you couldn’t have while your time was taken up with caring.
However, once you are ready, trying new things or going back to the things you used to do can help you manage grief and stop you from feeling lonely. Some things you could do are:
- volunteering or Time Swap
- adult education classes or learning something new
- taking part in social activities, sports or groups. The Derbyshire Directory has details of local groups you can join
- going back to work - if you haven't been in work for a while the National Careers Service has a skills health check you can use to see what kind of job might suit you
- seeing more of family and friends - maybe offer to provide regular childcare for a family member or arrange a regular meet up with a sibling
- get involved in supporting other carers. Local organisations and charities are always looking for volunteers. The carers directory has details of local services you could approach.
Benefits, financial and legal matters
The Derbyshire Welfare Rights Team have prepared a factsheet about benefits for people who are recently bereaved that explains what financial support is available. The Team can also offer advice about benefits over the phone from Monday to Friday, 11am to 4.30pm on tel: 01629 531535.
You may be able to get a £2,000 Bereavement Payment if the person you cared for was also your husband, wife or civil partner. This is a one-off, tax-free, lump-sum payment. You can find out if you are eligible and how to apply on the Gov.uk website.
Citizens Advice can give basic advice about other legal and financial matters and point you in the direction of more specialist advice. The Carers Directory has listings of all the Citizens Advice centres in Derbyshire - just search for 'advice services for carers' in your area.
The Derbyshire Trusted Trader register has details of independent financial advisors and solicitors who have been quality checked.
Unfortunately it is increasingly common for the identity of deceased individuals to be stolen causing further stress and grief for the families. Comparitech have put together this useful guide to protecting against identity theft after someone passes away
Other helpful website
- Carers Trust - when caring ends
- Carers UK - when your caring role ends or changes
- Carers UK - self advocacy toolkit - loss
- Age UK - coping with bereavement
- Support guides - support after suicide
- Bereavement Advice centre - practical help when you need it most
- Gov.uk - inheritance tax and probate
- Independent Age - how to stay connected in older age