Rescue Journal

another kind of loss

Carol  ·  Sep. 24, 2009

i don't think it is grief over spritely's loss that is bumming me out...although i am grieving her loss.

i think it is caregiver's loss that has messed me up so badly this time. there is this phenonomen i sometimes see.....i saw it with my dad when my mom died after 2 years of him caring for her and i see it with the caregivers of my palliative clients too.

when a person spends so much of their daily lives worrying, caring, frightened of what is coming next...riding that roller coaster ride of scary ups and downs for several years at a time, caring thru illness and vulnerability, carrying a painful but beautiful burden of responsibility..all because of a deep and abiding love for someone else...

what do you do with yourself when all of that "inside of you" caregiving stuff is suddenly gone? you are at a loss. you don't know what you are supposed to do with all the worry/think/wonder/be afraid about, stuff... now.

i think you feel a bit disconnected, a major mission has suddenly ended, but right in mid stream. and there you stand, looking around you, trying to figure out what you are supposed to do or worry about next.

so i think you grieve grieve the loss of who you loved and you grieve that sudden emptiness of caring inside you.

spritely has consumed me in many ways for many years. the daily monitering of her foot and leg, the watching of herself to make sure she felt ok.

anyway..i think this is what is happening to me...i am no stranger to death and loss but the animals who have passed away before did not live so precariously and by such a gift of god, as she did, for so very long.

and the other thing that is different for me the level of confidence i have in my current ability. the dogs and the cats, and even the rabbits now..they are second nature to me. i have been caring for many, many of these guys for many, many years.

the barn guys, esp. the horses and cows...they are relatively new to me. so i am always second guessing, looking in and out, trying to figure even more stuff out.

i know that once jeanette and spot passed..i still to this day feel a huge sense of relief in not having to worry so much about 1500 pounds of living life with painful joints and knees. joy was the right choice not only for percy, but the right choice for me. i needed a break from the fear of caring for such huge and depending on me, responsibilities.

and so here i go again...sorting thru the postmortums of loving and caring and loss. i wonder how long it will take this time to get it all sorted out.



It's called "caregiver's fatigue," Carol. Some also call it compassion fatigue but I think there's a difference between the two. I think caregiver's fatigue happens to those who are actual caregivers, whether they care for human's or animals. I think caregivers can have both caregiver and compassion fatigue. In my opinion, compassion fatigue can be more surface, such as ignoring the homeless person or addict you pass on the street or even work with. You don't have to have an emotional connection or investment to have compassion fatigue. I work in addictions and I see compassion fatigue fairly regularly. Some people lose sight of their empathy. I suspect your empathy is right in front of you each and every moment of each and every day. I believe caregiver fatigue has those experiencing it on a very fine and precise tightrope of emotions. Perhaps even losing sight of where you stop and the care-receiver begins. The most important step is recognizing it and then taking action to address it. When's the last time you went on a vacation, just for you? And I mean more than one night away.... just being a devil's advocate....


WOW!! That is a powerful message. Now everything I went through with one of my dogs, my beloved Molly the dalmatian monster, makes sense. I still have a huge hole in my heart from her. You should be a therapist, in your "spare" time of course.