Life after being a carer

I cared for my husband for 17 years after he had a stroke during a heart operation. He was a completely changed person. He died in September 2020 with a massive heart attack.
I have guilt for feeling a sense of relief… now I am overwhelmed by a sense of loss! My doc has prescribed an anti depressant… but I still struggle with guilt. Has anyone else experienced this

Hello Judith.
I completely understand what you are saying. I lost my lovely husband in May 2019. He had suffered with strokes, vascular dementia and other health issues. It was a very long good-bye and extremely heartbreaking to watch him deteriorate. I had an overwhelming sense of relief that he was no longer suffering and at peace. Then the guilt monster kicked in. He was in a nursing home. I had no choice. After he died all the thoughts of did I do enough for him, and so on. In my heart I know I did my very best for him and know he would have hated the way he became. Yes it’s lonely at times even in a crowd. I have learnt to count my blessings. That we had a good marriage and lovely family. You have nothing to feel guilty about .
I didn’t have bereavement counselling , but believe it helps many. Have you considered this?

Hi Judith

If you look at old discussion threads here, you’ll see that guilt comes up in many circumstances. People seem to be hard wired to feel guilty at the drop of the hat, even when there’s no real reason for it.

This is one of those times when there’s no reason for it.

My Dad had a massive stroke at the age of 52 and it changed everything for him and for my Mum. When she’s compos mentis she still feels guilty, 10 years on. Yet she cared for him for 32 years. Did everything for him that he couldn’t do for himself. And somehow not only was all that not enough, but she felt she’d failed him when he died. On top of that, she felt guilty because there was also a sign of relief at not having to care any longer.

It’s all perfectly natural, and reasonable. Let’s be honest. If my Dad hadn’t died when he did, my Mum would have continued caring for as long as he needed. And you’d have done the same for your husband. But that’s not what happened and it’s ok. You did right by him. And, probably, a lot more.

As I said, feeling guilty is natural. Even when it’s not reasonable. The trick is to accept the feeling without accepting that it’s true that you should feel that way. Because it’s not. Instead of guilt, the majority of people in your situation should be feeling pride at what you managed to do, for however long you managed.

Are you aware of Way Up, a forum for widows over 50? They also have meetings and holidays, it’s really supportive to share experiences with others who are making the same journey.
I’d also suggest a book by Sarah Litvinoff called StartingAgain by Sarah Litvinoff. Primarily for those who are divorcing, but also relevant for widows. It’s usually on eBay. Not a hard read either, I kept it on my bedside table and dipped into it.
When did you last go away on your own? I found it really helpful, renting a cottage where I could get up when I wanted, sleep when I wanted, away from the pressures of life at home surrounded by memories.