COPD Caregiver Perspectives - Getting Past the Anger
This is the next post in an ongoing series on the 5-stage grieving process experienced by those caring for a person with COPD. Watching someone you love slowly shrink to a mere shadow of their former self is enough to trigger a powerful emotion that you may be ashamed of feeling. I'm talking about anger, and it's often the second stage in the grieving process, after denial.
Remember, each stage of grieving is perfectly natural and OK. So, give yourself a break and accept the feelings for what they are - a phase you will eventually pass out of as you cope with the changes in your loved one.
Also, keep in mind that while many people proceed through the stages in a fairly ordinary fashion, some people take a different course. For instance, anger may be the first stage for you, before denial, or you may go back & forth or experience them simultaneously. However it happens, that's OK too. The important thing is to recognize where you are in the process and to deal with it in as healthy a fashion as possible.
When you are in anger, you feel rage, resentment and jealousy. You think that what's happening is unfair and look for someone to blame. The anger can be both on behalf of your loved one, as well as directed at them for putting themselves (and you) in such a situation. "Why me?" is a common question during this stage.
Anger doesn't have to be logical or deserved; it just is. Unfortunately, with the anger comes guilt at times, guilt for feeling angry in the first place. Anger can be one of the most painful stages to experience, especially when it is accompanied by remorse for things not done or things left unsaid with your loved one.
Tips for Coping During the Anger Phase of Grieving
The anger phase is a necessary one on your way to acceptance, but it is also potentially the most damaging phase. When we are angry, we can say and do things that will damage our relationships. And with so little time left with the person you're caring for, alienating them is something you may not recover from in time. So, try to find healthy outlets for your anger that will still preserve your relationships.
Don't try to dull your anger with alcohol or drugs. While these substances can provide temporary relief, in the long run, they take a heavy toll on your mental and physical health, and you will not be able to adequately maintain your caregiver duties if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Keep in mind that it is not necessary to grieve alone. If you don't have other family or friends you can lean on, think about joining a local support group or even an online support group. Get grief counseling if you need it. Take care of yourself, because the physical care your loved one needs from you can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Focus on eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and using stress relieving methods like yoga, listening to soft music, etc. Face your feelings, maybe by keeping a caregiver journal, and accept them as perfectly natural.
Finally, do keep moving, hopefully in a forward direction. You can't stay in anger forever, if you're to be an effective caregiver. Your loved one needs you.
Stage 6: Accepting the Diagnosis/Prognosis and Moving On