Whether you are recovering from the loss of a loved-one after dementia caregiving or some other event, grief is different for everyone. Just because one person behaved a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to follow in their lead.
I will say, however, that recovering after dementia caregiving is very different than any other grieving process. This is because as your loved-one lost bits and pieces of himself or herself along the way, you too grieved that loss along with them. You also grieved the loss of what you expected or dreamed that your future would be.
Because you grieved as the disease process was continuing doesn’t mean that you feel the loss when it is over any less strongly, it is just mixed with a sense of relief for your dementia journey being over.
It may be helpful for you to attend a grief group, or if you belonged to a dementia support group, to continue attending that group as a means of support during this time. Either way, you need to continue to socialize and make yourself stay connected. Also it is important that you not “close yourself off” from your emotions. In order to work through all the many different feelings you have, you must let yourself feel them, and own them.
I continued with my dementia support group, eventually becoming the next facilitator for the group I had attended, and now I facilitate another group as well. Also writing the book with my dear friend, Ann Henderberg, which we started a few months after our husbands’ deaths, also helped tremendously in working through our feelings. Sometimes we would be crying or laughing as we discussed a certain passage!
It may take a year or two before you can “see the light at the end of the tunnel” as far as grief work is concerned. You will know when you are there because you will suddenly see a list of things that you want to do, a “bucket list” of sorts, where there was none before. Don’t set any expectations that you should follow.
Give yourself time and be gentle with yourself. Only you will know when you have the knowledge and perspective to start living again!