March 13th, 2019 | BY: Allegra Chaney

Professional Caregiver Grief: Dealing Effectively With Sorrow

Dear Allegra:

As a professional caregiver, I am fortunate to develop close relationships with many of my patients and their families. Depending on the situation, I often care for many of my patients for several years. I get to know them and their families very well.

Unfortunately, because of the seriousness of many of their illnesses, it isn’t uncommon for one of my patients to die. As time goes by, I find myself struggling with caregiver grief. I don’t want these losses to change how I interact with patients and families, so I need to find ways to handle my sadness.

Do you have any suggestions on effectively dealing with professional caregiver grief? I would appreciate any advice.

Sincerely,

Jodie

Coping with Grief and Sorrow When You Are a Professional Caregiver

Dear Jodie:

Thank you for asking me such a great question. It gives me an opportunity to talk about an issue that often goes unaddressed. When you are a professional caregiver, loss is part of your work. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel grief and sorrow when a patient’s life ends.

In fact, unacknowledged caregiver grief can build up over time leading to a condition called bereavement overload. It can cause depression, anxiety, and even a loss of interest in continuing a caregiving career. These are challenging issues to try to manage.

Here are a few suggestions I can offer you on coping with this difficult part of professional caregiving:

Talk it out. Sharing your grief with fellow caregivers is one avenue to explore. Whether it is in an informal setting, such as the agency’s office over coffee, or a more formal caregiver support group, talking about loss helps.

Honor each patient. You might find it helps to develop your own way of honoring each patient. It could be as simple as writing a personal note to the family sharing what you enjoyed most about their loved one. That can be meaningful for both you and the family.

Keep a journal. Mental health professionals often recommend journaling to manage difficult feelings. If you get into the habit of journaling at the end of each day, it may help you better appreciate the joys and cope with the sorrows of professional caregiving.

Take breaks. In today’s fast-paced world, many of us fail to slow down and care for ourselves. Professional caregivers should make self-care a priority. Use days off to participate in spirit-nurturing activities such as nature walks, gardening, and art therapy.

We need to prevent compassionate caregivers like you from leaving the profession, Jodie, so I hope this information is helpful to you. Thank you again for reaching out to me for advice.

Kind regards,

Allegra