Long Distance Grief

Distance caregiving is the experience of providing support to an ill loved one who is geographically distant from the caregiver. Research shows that there were more than seven million Americans who were distance caregivers in 1997. That number is growing. This discussion group offers you a means of finding emotional support, validation and coping strategies.

Long Distance Grief

Postby dscowan » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:33 am

We know that distance caregivers often feel disconnected to what local caregivers and families experience. They often feel a lack of control and communication. When the loved one dies, these caregivers become the long distance bereaved. Grief reactions for the long distance bereaved consist of a variety of emotional responses including guilt for not being there, anger about decisions that were made and relief.

Please share your experiences as a long distance bereaved person.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby jshane » Mon May 14, 2012 12:54 pm

A few years ago I was living in Minneapolis when my father died. The reactions you mentioned are right on the mark for me personally. When I moved out of state my father seemed perfectly healthy but within about 6 months he became sick and the doctors weren't sure what was wrong. Eventually he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but by that time it was past treatment and he was in so much pain that he was quickly put into a hospice program. I was traveling a lot at the time but thankfully I was able to get back into town a few days before he died and was able to be with him in the end. Everything moved so fast at that point that before I knew it the funeral was over, all the arrangements were taken care of, and I was back on the road working again. By time everything really started to sink in I began feeling very guilty for moving away when I did. He was only 48 years old and it turned out that I missed the last months of his life. I was also very angry that the doctors couldn't diagnose him more quickly because then maybe there would have been a treatment option. Over time the negative feelings have lifted somewhat but I'm not sure that I will ever completely forgive myself. It's been 6 years now.. is it common to carry guilt and anger for so long? Is there something more I should or could be doing?
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby Shelly Winters » Fri May 18, 2012 9:56 am

My son felt the same way when his grampa died--he was in Thailand and he knew before going that there was a strong possibility grampa would die while he was away. So now he regrets he wasn't here that year. I don't really know how to comfort him. What made you feel better?
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby KarenH » Fri May 18, 2012 1:57 pm

@smontgomery - thank you for your post. The death of a parent is profoundly difficult, no matter the situation, but the rapid progression of your father's illness, coupled with your move away from home surely intensified the situation. It sounds as if you didn't have much time to attend to your grief after his death, which could certainly influence your feelings today. While there is no "one right answer" to your question, some people find it helpful to write a letter to the person who died, expressing all the things they miss, things they wish they had been able to say, and experiences they wish could be shared now. Others find that talking openly with a trusted friend or professional about those same issues can help ease their feelings over time. Perhaps others here can suggest things that they have found helpful as well.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby mary+m2 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 1:41 pm

My "big sister" Kathryn in backwoods Maine became ill and needed long-distance caregiving. Fortunately, I knew her community well and was able to help her during my many visits and also organize caregiving when I wasn't there. I was grateful to be able to make those trips to help her and to be there when she died. When Kathryn died, my community here in Cleveland, though supportive, were removed from the experience: so my grief was somewhat muted, isolated. The memorial service was held at her home in Maine, and travel to the service was not an option for many family and friends. Looking back, it probably would have been a good idea to have a small memorial service locally. Talking to my sister's friends in Maine and maintaining connections with them was helpful for us all. Helping clients through similar experiences, this is a common theme: grieving in a vacuum when our loved one was not known by our community. To honor our grief, support groups are incredibly helpful. Accepting support, sharing our stories through words and pictures, and being honest about the meaning of our loved one's life and death can help.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby lee1986 » Thu Jun 05, 2014 3:23 pm

In general, feelings of grief are difficult to process. However, when you are a "long distance griever", it can bring up some other challenges.
When talking to some long distance grievers, there seems to be a sense of isolation at times. There is something healing about being around people that have a close connection to you and your loved one. When you are miles apart from those connections, you may feel "like you are all alone in your grief". Fortunately, todays technology (texting, e-mailing, skyping) has made it easier not to feel as isolated.
It is very important to have support around you when you are grieving. If there is a way to interact with people that are close to you when you are a distance away, it can only enhance your grief journey.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby kitkat5 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:16 am

There are many facets to long distance grief including perhaps feelings of guilt because you were unable to be here to provide hands on care for your loved one or help other family members with the care or decision making at the end of life. After the death when you come to town for the funeral/memorial or whatever way your loved one will be honored, you may feel unsupported because your friends and support systems live out of town where you reside and cannot be here for you at such a difficult time. Hopefully family who does live here is loving and supportive but there are cases in which feelings of resentment surface because the burden of caregiving fell on the local family. But you as the long distance bereaved have as much right to grieve your loss as anyone else. Seek out those who can assist you with your grief if you are struggling whether that is a religious person, counselor, family/friends, or a support group. Whether you were here or not, death is difficult and the impact of grief will be felt.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby KarenH » Sat Sep 06, 2014 10:26 pm

Often, patients cared for by our Hospice of the Western Reserve teams have loved ones who live in other states. Upon their passing, we try to help those family members identify hospices in their areas who may extend bereavement support to them just as if the patient had been "theirs." This is called reciprocity, and if your loved one was a hospice patient at the time of his/her death, it might be worth a call to one of your local hospice providers to see if they offer this as part of their program. Even if they aren't able to provide the service directly, they may be able to offer information on other reputable sources of in-person grief support in your area. This is just one means of addressing the issues related to distance caregiving/grief.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby kincaid59 » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:48 am

Long distance caring can be considered as little as 1.5 hr. away, 3,000 miles away or across the world. There are often feelings of helplessness due to the inability to do hands on care. Things you might try are staying in regular contact with the local caregivers. Communicating knowledge you have and offering suggestions to make the task easier is always welcome advice. Be mindful of suggestions and opinions and how they may affect the hands on caregiver as well as the patient. Many relationships have been strained when the distant person is not in synch with the person who is actually hands on. Be cognizant of the emotional, mental and physical drain caregiving can be. A kind word, thank you and the offer of support can go a long way. Try to call your love one more often, send a note, photos, etc. in an attempt to stay connected. Emotional support is just as important as physical support.
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Re: Long Distance Grief

Postby kitkat5 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 9:19 am

Long Distance Caregiving and Grief are complicated at best. All of the posts here address the difficulties not only for the person who lives away but also for the family that is here. As the local caregiver, sometimes the load seems overwhelming and it may appear that the distance caregiver is getting a break which can lead to feelings of resentment and anger. But the distant caregiver/griever has their own issues such as feeling guilty for not being here or feeling that he/she is left out. Hopefully there has been a good relationship and these issues can be talked about with family members so each person is validated and acknowledged. We all want to be heard, validated and comforted in these difficult situations. Sometimes the perception of a situation is different from the reality but perception is in the eye of the beholder and needs to be addressed to prevent damaged feelings and relationships. Communication is key and supporting one another whether you are the local or distant caregiver/griever can go a long way to solidify good relationships.
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