Grief while Caregiving

Grief while Caregiving

Everyone experiences grief in his or her life. All of us lose friends and family and it is a heavy task for every one of us. Our best advice is that everyone who grieves show themselves compassion by allowing themselves the time and space to process it all. While grief is inevitable, please remember that processing it is essential for your wellbeing. Grief is a time where you are allowed to protect time for yourself.

Caregivers already have a tendency of putting themselves second to the person they are caring for. Being a caregiver and going through grief at the same time presents more challenges because both require time to heal.

Grady is not new to the world of caregiving. He served as Washoe County Senior Services Director. He was responsible for developing the county’s Master Plan for Aging Services, which encompasses 12 goals on improvements of services for seniors. In 2015, he introduced the idea of creating the Caregiver Support Initiative, when the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada was seeking ideas for their second initiative.

He also knows first-hand what it’s like to juggle being a family caregiver and allowing himself the space to grieve. At one point, he was a caregiver to his brother, mother-in-law and his wife. He said that when he was caregiving for his brother, he already felt a sense of loss, because he knew that his brother was at the end of his life.

He also cared for his mother-in-law at the same time his wife unexpectedly suffered a heart attack. He had to care for both. Not surprisingly, he felt an immense amount of pressure and worry about them while he also continued as their caregiver.

“I am fortunate to have friends,” he said.  “They helped me through this.” When he was not tending to his caregiving duties, he said he surrounded himself with people who knew what grief was and had often experienced it themselves. And, when Grady was diagnosed with cancer, he decided to find friends who could relate to him. His informal support group was comprised of people who had cancer or were cancer survivors. “We talked a lot and shared everything. In spite of what you may have heard, men are willing to share and support one another.” He said it was very helpful being around people who truly understood him.

Grady advises caregivers to look out for themselves during critical times:

“My advice to caregivers is to reach out. Create your own support group of people who know what you are going through on a personal level. Figure out how you can take breaks from caregiving from time to time to catch your breath. As far as grief goes, it is something you can’t fix, but something you can go through. Take that time for yourself, and allow your life to change. And get away for a bit, even if that means just mowing your lawn. If you don’t, you will wear yourself out”.

If you don’t have the time to seek support groups, you can always form your own support group. Sometimes, you just need one or two friends you can confide in. Seek friends who know what loss feels like when you are processing the death of a loved one. Grieving is not something we want to do but it is a part of life. Having compassion for ourselves and towards other people in grief is crucial at this time. Lastly, enjoy your time with family and friends. Those moments are what we will all have to experience ourselves someday.”

Click here for more information on bereavement groups.

Click here for more information on support groups, or call the Community Foundation at 775-333-5499. 

You can also check out for grief support.

Grady Tarbutton, former Washoe County Senior Services Director
Interview by Luiza Benisano