This wonderful list of strategies was compiled by Elaine Book, social worker with the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre in Vancouver, BC, Canada, in July 2020. This list was shared at a recent WellMed Charitable Foundation teleconference that featured Ms. Book, in conversation with Parkinson’s caregivers. (There is little about this list that is Parkinson’s-specific. Nor is it specific to caregiving.)
Ms. Book’s list includes this quotation:
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” (Vicki Harrison)
There are many good ideas here. The last one resonated with me:
Reframe the loss as a change, not an end to a relationship or ability or role. Notice what has changed and focus on what remains. It can be seen as the closing of one chapter and the opening of another.
Strategies for managing feelings of loss and grief
by Elaine Book, MSW, RSW
Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Keep a journal
- Writing out thoughts and feelings is an effective way to look at what is happening. Writing about your insights and reflecting on them can be empowering, can help you to find fresh opportunities and move in a new direction. Sometimes writing about your losses can help you gain some emotional distance, make it more manageable and less frightening. Feeling the pain is healthier in the long run than denying the fears, anger, sadness, loneliness or resentment.
- If you are new to journaling, start with writing down a daily highlight or gratitude. Or use prompts like “What makes me angry or sad or scared” or “What have I learned about myself” or “I found it funny and endearing when the PWP …” or “The unexpected gift I received”. [PWP = person with Parkinson’s]
Establish goals for yourself
- Facing losses can leave you feeling out of control…try to counteract that feeling by setting goals for yourself like learning a new skill or taking a course or volunteering. Set up a plan that can work, one that is reasonable and rewarding.
Take action to stay healthy
- Eat well, exercise, laugh every day, take breaks, sleep, maintain spiritual connections, remain intellectually stimulated, socially connected, use stress management and relaxation techniques like breathing.
- Grounding practices like yoga, meditation or even walks in nature help to pace yourself.
- Apps for mindfulness practice – www.headspace.com, 10%happier, Breathe
Surround yourself with those who feed you
- Be with people whose presence energize you and stay away from those who drain you. Create a “psychological family “…. the people you turn to in times of crisis and celebration. This circle of support can go beyond family. The people who are there for you in good times and bad are the ones who will be able to understand the losses of the caregiving experience. They can provide a healing hug. Also recognize the formal resources and support systems that are available to help you if your psychological family needs expanding.
With your loved one, address and come to terms with the losses and changes in function. A condition can bring you closer for having a shared experience.
Create something new
- New plans, new connections based on how your life is now. Look for ways to connect with the PWP as he/she is today. Seek out joy in your relationship with the PWP. [PWP = person with Parkinson’s]
- Think about past challenges in your life and how you navigated through them. Then use those experiences to remind yourself of your courage and strength and possibly use some of the same strategies again. What was helpful and what was not. Trust in yourself that you have the ability to meet the present challenge.
- Reframe the loss as a change, not an end to a relationship or ability or role. Notice what has changed and focus on what remains. It can be seen as the closing of one chapter and the opening of another.