“Grief is normal and mourning is very necessary. But if depression becomes ingrained and doesn't stop, that's when you need help.”
We all have our share of grief and loss in life. Our experience of grief, as a response to loss, may occur in different ways to someone else. And that's okay. Grief and loss may affect our thoughts, behaviours, beliefs, feelings, and relationships. Ultimately, it can affect our physical and mental health and wellbeing
Caring is a vital role that may demand specialised skills. Caregivers need support from others. They also need to make their own self-care a priority, to avoid becoming isolated and being negatively affected by the pressures of the role.
Caring for yourself first and foremost is crucial in order to be able to care for someone else. Setting aside regular time to relax, or even visiting friends, can help manage feelings like anger or sadness that may stem from grief.
If you are a carer or know someone in a caregiver role that you would like to support, take a look at our carers page.
A closer look
It helps to make time to look after yourself as well as the person you are caring for
This can mean doing something you enjoy - like taking a walk outdoors, spending time with friends, or watching a movie. If you are finding it hard to cope with the pressures of this extra responsibility, it can help to reach out to a family member, friend or health professional for support. Discussing your feelings and fears in an understanding and supportive environment can help things seem more manageable. (Source)
Grief itself is not a mental illness
It's natural to go through many different emotions when you're grieving, and everyone deals with it differently. It's not a sign of mental illness, it's a healing process. Grief counsellors can help you learn how to accept the loss, manage difficult feelings, and find the strength to overcome them. (Source 1) (Source 2)
It helps to tell your story
Research with carers has shown that many carers want to share their stories without judgement or censorship. Grief and losses can go unspoken or be pushed aside due to the pressure of day-to-day concerns in caring. Sharing thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment has been shown to be helpful to carers. This does not necessarily mean counselling. Just to be able to release thoughts and feelings through talking about them safely can help a lot. (Source)
A carer can experience grief and loss for someone who has not yet passed away
Illnesses that cause a decline in a person’s physical and mental capabilities - whether slowly or suddenly - can be distressing to witness. As a carer you may feel particularly worried if the person you are caring for seems ungrateful or becomes aggressive. You may feel like they are no longer the person you once knew and loved. A sense of loss can be worsened by the guilt of feeling that way towards someone who is still living. (Source 1) (Source 2)
It can help to reach out to others who have similar experiences
Some carers have been able to 'move on' in their grief by meeting others who are also affected by loss, and creating a support network. Being involved in advocacy to raise awareness for illnesses, so that others can seek earlier intervention, can help a carer feel they are honouring the life of their loved one and making their life count. Helping others can help you place your loss in the context of your life and be able to find ways of ongoing healing. (Source 1) (Source 2)
A year after my father died, I still felt really bad and wasn't functioning well. Twelve months down the track, things should have been improving, but they still felt the same. I had a very strong sense that that was not normal, or that at least I should have been feeling a bit better. I had gone beyond mourning and I realised I needed help.
It's easy for carers to lose their identity. All the focus is on the person for whom they are caring, not the carer. They're like invisible people. It's important that carers make time to do the things they love, and have a life outside of caring.
I tackled the grief and depression by setting myself goals every day – starting with little things like, I'm going to shower, I'm going to wash the dishes. That helped me feel better about myself and better about my environment. So just trying to do little things gives you the motivation to go on to more challenging things like study and work.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).