This is a guest post by Dawn Kairns, author of the books FINAL YEARS Stories of Parent Care, Loss and Lives Changed and MAGGIE the Dog Who Changed My Life.
Some of us are thrown into grief with the sudden, unexpected loss of a beloved family member, pet, or friend. Others know death is coming for our loved one, but don’t know just when, or what they may have to endure before they pass. For example, I always knew I’d lose my parents, but was not prepared for how my parents’ suffering would affect me, how frequent long-distance trips for care-giving would impact me, or for how overwhelming and life-changing the loss of my parents would be.
Helping parents’ transition through aging, illness and death changes many adult children’s lives forever. It did mine. Grief often begins long before your loved one passes, as you care for your beloved person or pet, watch them suffer and lose quality of life. I encourage you to get support during this delicate time. As a caregiver making frequent trips from Colorado to the Midwest, I often felt isolated and out of step with life. I believe the tendency to feel alone is even stronger when you’re a long distance caregiver. As I watched my father die inch-by-inch, I didn’t know where to turn. Who would connect with me in my emotional pain and helplessness? When I lost my soul mate dog, Maggie, several years earlier, I wondered the same, longing for genuine connection to relieve my isolation.
We have to feel our grief; cry our tears; tell our stories. We need the kind of support that receives and responds to our emotional agony. That is what led me to write both MAGGIE the Dog Who Changed My Life and FINAL YEARS Stories of Parent Care, Loss and Lives Changed. My hope is to help those grieving realize that you are not alone but part of a hidden tribe who share a common bond.
In Final Years, ten people share their stories of tough roads of decision-making, family dynamics, grief, and healing. I weave my own account through each of their chapters. My hope is that in reading these stories in the caregivers’ voice, you will find guidance for navigating your way through your parents’ final years.
Dawn Kairns is the author of the books FINAL YEARS Stories of Parent Care, Loss and Lives Changed and MAGGIE the Dog Who Changed My Life. Dawn has dealt with aging, death, and grief in her practices as a nurse, psychotherapist, and family nurse practitioner. Dawn has also published in nursing journals. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband, Tom, and their rescued animals, Maddie the dog and Tigger the cat. Her spirit thrives in the mountain wilderness among wildflowers and rushing streams.