As a caregiver, I know what it is to devote years and years to the well-being of someone aside from myself. After spending twelve years caring for my father and then another eight for my mother, who had Vascular dementia, I really do know what I’m talking about. Although I wouldn’t have had it any other way, I know I lost part of my life that I will never regain, but put in the same circumstance, I’d do it all over again.

If you know friends or relatives who have recently lost a loved one and they are just beginning the grieving process, please call or visit them. I guarantee that when asked, “Is everything okay?” they will tell you that they are doing fine. Well, in my opinion, 99.9% of them are covering up the truth. They are most likely falling apart and desperately need help and friendship! The fact is, they’re going to need all kinds of assistance, especially with restarting a social life. You are in a perfect position to commiserate and then share in mutual healing.

After years of tending to a loved one and living life in full-tilt-caregiver mode, it’s very distressing to suddenly find that, after the loved one’s passing, all things familiar seem to come to a halt, leaving a lonely void. You could be standing outside in the middle of a field and still feel the walls closing in.

For me, at the termination of watching Dad’s every move and trying to anticipate his every need, it was like someone had suddenly flung open the kitchen window, and this newly released freedom came breezing through. For years I had barely been able even to get away to a grocery store, then abruptly, I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. This was quite disconcerting. The truth of the matter was I barely wanted to leave my driveway at first.

It’s highly likely that those who have traveled down the rough road of caregiving will never look at life again in the same manner. But I mean this in a good way. Most come away with tremendous growth in their inner being. You can too!

There’s no question that there is a recovery stage that one must journey through, so again, if you know of any caregivers who have recently lost a loved one, help them find their way back into the human race socially. Take them to lunch or to an uplifting movie. The simple act of getting them out of the house may bounce them back onto the right path to begin enjoying life again.

If you should happen to be that particular caregiver, please don’t wait for that phone call or visit; be proactive. Go out and find something to occupy your time. Discover something that will bring some spirit back into your life. Try not to spend too much time in solitude. I know that at first, you may want to be alone; I did too. But trust me, don’t let that period drag on too long. It becomes very unhealthy. If someone tells you, that you need to “get out a little,” listen to them. They’re probably right and are seeing something you may be missing.

So, I deeply wish to equate this with you. “The longer I let this go on, the harder it was for me to shake it off.”

You should think about becoming a volunteer somewhere. This could be a winning opportunity for you. It will get you off the couch and put you back on a schedule. You need to get yourself back out in the world again.