It's not like the experience of caregiving goes away when it ends, and it always ends. No matter that the position has been closed with its exact and delineated daily, weekly, monthly, or “as needed” caregiving tasks, the impact endures. Some post-caregivers grieve exclusively; others are primarily relieved. More often than not grief and relief fit tightly in the same moment.
Grooming was relatively optional for Leonard. I was always surprised when he cared about his appearance. Occasionally, he might ask the color of his shirt and if it matched the pants, or if he looked good enough to go to church or a birthday party. I actually thought he used grooming as a bargaining point, but I’m not sure what he was bargaining for besides one last item of control. Occasionally I would remind him that he had three days beard growth. Sometimes I teased him about a soon-to-be pony tail, “a little long in the back.”
I have no insight as to why sometimes I miss her deeply, and its totally OK at others. It’s none of the things you identified for yourself, like a possession. It’s not a place, like for Michael, not Sherry's intense photos, and definitely not strangers, like the silly chick from hospice.
When the National League uncle came down from his upstairs apartment on New Year’s Eve and uncharacteristically announced, “I don’t feel good,” that's when his American League nephew mobilized and took him to the hospital. When the habitual never-complainer complains, then its the top of the first inning and its likely to be a long game.
The majority of caregivers are better at taking care of others than they are at taking care of themselves. The stereotypical belief is that this is a willful act of self-sacrifice, but I think it is more often just a discrepancy between two unrelated skills. The skill to take care of self and the skill to take care of others really aren't related, and they aren't inversely proportional.
From the moment I met them I knew there was a promise being fulfilled. Selene had just returned home from in-patient hospice where she was put through a tornado of pain medication adjustments, resulting in a hurricane of side effects. Before I met them in the afternoon after Selene's first night home, Emilia had already called me at least eight times in one week, maybe more than that.