Grief is a natural reaction to loss. And stroke survivors and their caregivers face loss every day. The loss of former abilities or routines can be just as profound as a physical death. Here are some practical tips for coping:
Give yourself permission to express your feelings. It could be a heartfelt talk with a trusted friend. Some like to write; others draw. Whatever form you choose, stick to it. v Learn to listen and keep listening. The grieving person's agenda should drive the conversation. Talking and processing feelings out loud can help the person understand that the stroke really happened.
Forge a spiritual connection. Reach out to your church or synagogue for counseling.
Understand that there's no right way to grieve. Many people grieve in private, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Deal with your emotions, which might include pain, guilt or shame. There's also fear and anger: "If my dad had a stroke, could I have one too?" or "My grandfather was a nutritionist who never smoked or drank. Why us? p>Guilt can leave lasting scars and some caregivers dwell on what happened before the stroke. Allow yourself to experience these feelings but cut yourself some slack. There's no benefit to beating yourself up. Do something active. Visit the gym. Go for a jog. Swim a few laps. Just taking a walk can give the caregiver and the stroke survivor a different perspective. Can't get outside? Stay inside and watch a funny show. Let go with a ritual. Proactively cope with your losses -; but only when you're ready. Some suggestions: meditation, lighting a candle or planting a tree. Take a ritual bath, get a massage or play some music. Like hymns or Big Band tunes? Open your ears to whatever fills your heart.
Evaluate your roles and look to the future. Once you have a handle on day-to-day issues, think about what's yet to come. How do I redefine who I am, who my loved one is and how we relate to each other? Both survivors and caregivers need to learn how to help each other - and themselves.