Grief is a normal response to have when you learn that someone you love has been diagnosed with a mental illness. It is a deeply personal emotion and everyone goes through it in their own way.
It is a special type of grief, different to that of when you lose a loved one through death, why? because it is not often recognised by others therefore it is disenfranchised- no flowers, no validation from others, no ceremonies (like a funeral) however a very real grief, sometimes without closure because of the nature of the mental illness, sometimes our loved one is quite well, other times very unwell.You may feel:
- Shock- eg "This can't be happening"
- Denial- The doctors don't know what they're talking about"
- Anger- at yourself, a relative or treating team
- Bargaining- "if I do this, then..."
- Depression- being tired or withdrawn
- Acceptance-coming to terms with the issue
You may also experience a sense of loss:
- Changes in family roles- having to parent an adult child
- Change in life style- participating in less social activities due to stigma
- Loss of self esteem- due to inability to protect a child
- Loss of identity- because of major changes to your loved one
Grieving is a natural process and can be assisted with professional care to enable you to move forward and become resilient and strong to cope with your caring role. It is important to know that your loved one with a mental illness will be grieving too in quite a similar way to you, and that they also need to be heard and assisted in the grief process
It is vital to acknowledge your grief and seek the right support eg
- Professional Grief Counselling
- Peer Support through Support Groups
- And any other opportunity to de-brief your grief in a friendly environment
A Carer Assist Advocate can help you through this process.