Bereavement: life after being a carer 

When the person you've been caring for dies, there is support available to you. In this video, former carers discuss how they coped with their grief and found a new purpose in life.

When someone you care for dies

Transcript of Bereavement: life after being a carer

I met my husband in 1947 on the end of Southend pier,

and he was on the boats, and we had 53 years of married life.

It started off in '75,

on Bonfire Night it was the beginning of it,

and he died in '06,

and so all that time he was gradually becoming

more and more... sicker.

My wife had had some history with benign lumps, cysts, that were drained

and then one time she felt that something was wrong

so she went and was diagnosed as a hard lump.

And events followed from that that she had in fact got cancer, breast cancer,

and there was already evidence that it had spread.

As time went by it became worse with the various illnesses

and it was the last four or five years of his life

that I then had to take over,

not realising that I was becoming his full-time carer.

I would say that the immediate emotional response to that diagnosis was fear

and a realisation that things were going to change

and that my wife would die.

A carer's job is very hard work.

Often they're on call for 24 hours a day.

They have to be there for most of the time.

And it can be very difficult watching somebody that you love deteriorate.

It can be really difficult for the carer when the person dies

because not only are they grieving for this person,

but also they've lost their life's purpose, in a way.

I think at the moment of death

there is realisation that you're no longer needed, you're almost useless

because you'd had a function as a carer, a full-time carer,

and that was taken away.

What you had to do and what was left

were the logistics of the funeral arrangements

and after that there was nothing.

As soon as his funeral was over it really was amazing to realise

that suddenly all that I'd been doing, now I didn't have to do.

I didn't have to do the washing and feeding him

and doing the bed and everything else.

Suddenly I was me on my own and it really was a shock.

One of the big things is that so many people have been in and out of the house

and all of a sudden not only has this person died but they've lost everything.

Perhaps people have been coming in and out,

the Mac nurses or the district nurses or carers,

so it isn't just this person, but actually then they lose everything.

I was depressed, there's no doubt about it, I was seriously depressed.

As well as having the upset of the death,

the whole series of events had finalised in the death

and after that I didn't know where I was going to go,

I had no sense of direction.

The hospice is there to support people pre-bereavement and post-bereavement.

When somebody's died there are formal ways that we offer support to people,

but again it might be through listening, through formal counselling

and practical support as well at that time.

My wife was linked to the local hospice

and as part of their complementary services

they provided bereavement counselling,

so I was linked professionally very quickly to those services

and I found them very, very useful indeed.

(Sue) A carer's life doesn't have to end when their person dies.

There are many things that carers could go on to do in the future

after their person had died

with the skills that they've used actually caring for them.

Linked to my previous management skills,

the skills I'd acquired as a carer I could offer to others

in explaining to them maybe how to cope with the situation they were faced with.

The support from Hospice at Home and the Macmillan nurses

and the different people, including our GP,

the help they gave when I looked after Ken at the end,

I now am hopefully giving back

and helping other people to understand what's happened

and how the future can be much brighter than what they thought.

It's been two years now since my wife died

and I've moved on from a sense of feeling that there was nothing there

to a complete change in my situation.

I've got a new partner,

I'm still heavily engaged in work and activities with carers.

Life goes on.

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