To understand is to forgive, even oneself. Alexander Chase
The road to Spokane is in its final stages as there are only two chapters left to write for my thesis “Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Work Place.” I owe a big thanks to Denise Brown from Caregiving.com for helping me gather statistics for the thesis. I had two hypothesis to prove in my thesis, so far the data tells me that I was able to prove one of them. I will be sure to reveal the results of the study in May after the thesis has been approved and submitted.
While attending the American Society on Aging Conference in Washington, D.C., I was struck by not only the information that delivered at the conference, but the commitment of the professionals in attendance. Another added benefit was the chance to connect with quite a number of social networking friends, people who I have collaborated with of the years online, yet have never had the opportunity to meet in person. I was fortunate to be able to attend this event.
Something hit me square in the eye while in Washington, D.C. that is difficult to explain, but quite profound. During one of our discussions at the conference, I suggested to the group that there is plenty of information for caregivers and those who are in the aging profession, but I did not see much information on life after caregiving ends. (A few eyebrows where raised when I made this point!) Yes, there is an estimated 43 million family caregivers today in the United States, but what happens to caregivers when caregiving ends? Do family caregivers just go back to daily life without recognizing, or better yet, dealing with the dramatic change in life when caregiving ends?
I had to look inside my heart for that answer. And for me, that answer centered around forgiveness.
In order to fully grasps and move on with life after caregiving, I had to first forgive myself, forgive myself for moving on with my life. Seems strange after all most two years past Richard’s life transition, but yes, life after caregiving has to include a bit of self-forgiveness. I then had to forgive myself for the bad decisions I made during and especially after caregiving ended. I had to forgive myself for not taking better care of myself both physically , emotionally, spiritually and financially. But most of all, I had to forgive myself for being afraid to continue on with my life after caregiving ended.
You see, caregiving was just a small portion of our life together. Time wise, eleven years together, pales in comparison in relation to the six months of intensive caregiving that transpired in our relationship. However those six months of intensive caregiving takes a relationship to new heights, new destinations and at least in our case, a deeper love and commitment that is impossible to replace. I marvel, and often wonder about couples who have been together 30, 40, 50 years then suddenly find themselves in the role of a family caregiver.
Our time in caregiving ends: Our time in love is endless.
For me, life after caregiving is about learning to forgive myself. When I came to the realization that I had to first forgive myself in order to fully move on with my life, a little bright light went on in my head, (thanks to a wonderful conversation with my friend Sam Chalfant) allowing me to understand and accept, that living in the past does not help the present, nor the future: living in the past puts life on hold.
Just like our caregiving journeys are different, so will our journeys be different when caregiving ends. Sharing our stories after caregiving ends is just as important as it was while in the midst of caregiving. Because in the end, somewhere along the line, forgiveness, in some form or another, will be part of the healing formula for each one of us to experience, so that we can fully embrace our life once again after caregiving ends. Sharing is caring… before, during and after our caregiving experience, so that our hills are light, and with a gentle breeze always at our backs.
Chris MacLellan is the host of “Healing Ties” radio program and the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?”
The road to Spokane is my virtual story leading up to graduation from Gonzaga University