Thoughtful Advice for Rebuilding Your Life After Caregiving

Pictured above is Peter Bailey- he and his wife Tanya’s story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

Caregivers selflessly dedicate their time to juggling all sorts of tasks for others, from administering medications to helping someone eat. Many of those hours spent with a loved one are filled with building an intimate friendship and connection. When the caregiving relationship comes to an end, it can be difficult determining where to go next. 

This is a common question many caregivers face, and it often comes with heavy feelings. You may be carrying grief for a deceased loved one, or you may have just finished helping someone go through an intense round of treatment.

After devoting so much time and attention to someone else, the path toward rebuilding your life after caregiving can feel fuzzy. To help you with this new phase, we’ve put together some ideas from members of the CaringBridge community who have been in the same position. We hope their stories will bring a little more light and clarity as you contemplate how to move forward.

Choose One Thing to Do Each Day

Pictured above is Meritxell Mondejar Pont, whose story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

When you’re a caregiver, it’s normal to put your own needs aside to take care of someone you love. Your days might have been packed with things to get done, keeping you busy from sunrise to sunset.

After your caregiving responsibilities end, you suddenly have more time on your hands. This can be a shock to your mind and nervous system since you’re used to being super busy all day. You may now feel like you’re not being productive.

If this is the case, take your time and start with just one thing to do each day. Whether it’s running an errand or simply doing laundry, take it slow and rebuild at your own pace. Remember, it’s okay to say “yes” to less!

“After my husband died, I would choose just one thing to do each day. Even if it was something very minor, it still kept me from feeling like the day was wasted. I gradually added one more thing to each day. It helped to keep me sane and made me feel useful.”

Sharon T.

Practice Spending Time With Yourself

CaringBridge user Michael Bischoff sitting by the Mississippi River throwing rocks.

Rebuilding your life after caregiving often means taking time for yourself even if it feels awkward or unnatural. After you’ve given so much to someone else, it may feel strange or even selfish to focus on yourself. Whether you’re coping with a loss, or simply moving forward after caregiving, know that it’s okay to embrace these feelings. They are completely valid , especially after such a big transition. 

Approach self-care in whatever way feels best for your mind, body and spirit. Whether it be reading your favorite novel or taking in the sunset with a friend, small moments like these can make all the difference. 

Know that above all, you’re worthy of self-care. Embrace any chance you have to relax and recharge, and give yourself permission to feel joy and be inspired. 

“I am a current caregiver and have been for at least 20 years. As I still do care for others, I have to make time for myself and my own family/loved ones. You have to make sure you’re 100% before you can help anyone else.” 

Sista M. 

Take Things at Your Own Pace

When you’re no longer caregiving, you may feel the need to plunge back into work and your social life. Know that you don’t have to establish a new routine right away or fill up your calendar immediately. Instead, reenter the world at your own pace.

Others might pressure you to do more. This often comes from a place of love, but only you know what’s best for you. Whatever you decide, choose a pace that feels calm and easy. There’s truly no rush to get back out there.

“I plunged back in way too fast, at the urging of those close to me. Take it slow!”

Karen J. 

Write Down Your Stories & Memories 

Rebuilding your life after caregiving can involve processing everything you’ve been through. From willingly sacrificing your own needs to witnessing a loved one in pain, your heart may feel heavy from everything you’ve experienced.

That’s why you may want to take some time to write your story down. In fact, expressive writing can help you heal trauma, process your past experiences and help you clarify a pathway forward, even if it’s just for five minutes a day.

How you write is up to you. You can write by hand in a paper notebook or type into an online document. CaringBridge has a free online journal where you can express all your thoughts and feelings. You can keep this journal private or share it with your family and friends, and even use it to post updates about your progress. There’s no wrong way to do it, and it just may help you feel lighter.

“I went into my own pre-planned recovery, which meant changes in the relationships that I had tried to keep going, during my days as a caregiver. Most of those relationships do not exist today… I was mentally & physically exhausted. I started journaling & writing stories about my life.”

Terri A. 

Give Thanks to Those Who Have Supported You 

Practicing gratitude is powerful. It places us in the present moment and helps us recognize what’s valuable in our lives. When we give thanks to those who have supported us, we uplift both ourselves and others.

There are many ways to give thanks to your supporters. You can post on social media, create a public message on your CaringBridge site, send thank-you notes or even make a simple phone call. You can also begin a gratitude practice

Not only will your loved ones appreciate it, but it can also give you a well-deserved break from any heaviness you may feel. Plus, it’s an opportunity to gently reconnect with those who are dearest to you.

“Most of all… I feel thankfulness for those who have stood with me. I praise God every day for loving me just as I am.”

Terri A. 

Practice Prayer, Meditation, & Mindfulness

Rebuilding your life after caregiving is a healing process, and a healing process can sometimes be a bumpy ride as you transition into a new way of being. You may have trouble focusing, feel anxious or simply not be able to calm your energy.

When you can’t calm your body, you can try calming your mind with prayer, meditation or mindfulness. Whether you bring awareness to the present moment or communicate with a higher power, doing so may help you unwind and process your feelings. 

“I have a prayer list that I feel that I should pray for so many people who are alone, in grief or have major life events that they are dealing with.”

Terri A. 

“I’ve started a loving kindness meditation each morning, and it really helps me remember to be patient with myself as I go through my day.”

Katrina W.

How Did You Move Forward?

Life after caregiving is a big change. Whether you’re struggling with the transition or embracing it, we hope these tips help you rebuild your life in a positive way.

If you’ve ever experienced a big transition in your life, we’d love to know how you moved forward. Feel free to share your story, suggestions and tips for our readers in the comments below. You may just give someone the inspiration they need to rebuild and keep going.

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