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Marking the Boundary Between Caregiving and Moving Forward

Travelrawpixel-211022-unsplash (1)Dear Carol: I quit a job that I enjoyed, one with good benefits, in order to be a caregiver to my parents up until their deaths just months apart. They did help some financially, and I don’t regret doing what I did, but now I need a change. I’m 57-years-old and must go back to work. Before I even worry about that, though, I’d like to take a vacation. I’ve been planning a cruise with a friend, but my brother has me reconsidering. I didn’t inherit a lot of money, but I have enough for the trip and still retain some savings. He says that I should land a job first and then consider a vacation. I know that he's right in a practical way, but I really need to regroup and do something for myself before beginning to rebuild my life as a non-caregiver. My brother was across the country during the caregiving so I’m not certain that he understands. What do you think? Am I being foolish and reckless and my brother says? – RH

Read the full column on Inforum about how some caregivers need a clear boundary once caregiving ends:

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Thank you for the well thought out backup, Don. One has to have been there to know, and her brother was not. I admire you for being forthright about the relief, as well. I lost parents to long illnesses, which is different than a spouse, but we caregivers share many feelings. Most of us have strong emotions to sort through. I think that the writer deserves this time to treat herself and recover. I appreciate your comment. Carol

I have to disagree with your brother. Just in a practical sense, most employers won't let you take a vacation for six months to a year after you start a new job. But, even more important, I think you probably need some time to heal, reprocess and rebuild. Your emotions as a caregiver don't turn off like a faucet the moment the caregiving is over. You have a big, maybe long grieving process to go through and it may be very complicated and difficult. I know after my caregiving for my wife ended, I had to deal with guilt over feeling so much relief and wonder if I was sad enough or really grieving properly or enough. At age 65 and newly retired, I had to adjust to that and re-engage in the social world and figure out how I'd spend my time and spend my mind, that part that was always focused on wondering how she was and if she needed something and what I needed to do next. That takes time and work. You probably carry a great deal of pain and sorrow your brother may know very little about. I am concerned, too, that he presumes to give this sort of advice to you in the first place. I trust that he asked your permission first or asked if you wanted some advice, like one respectful adult to another? I'd say you should take the cruise and also get involved in something creative: take up music or dancing or writing or art. Forgive your brother and head for the ocean.

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