I'm sure we are all aware of the five stages of grief that we must endure when dealing with the loss of a loved one: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. For myself, I really have only experienced one: Acceptance. I knew what I had in store for me when I committed myself to Tracey. I knew that we were fighting a losing battle, and that the best I could do was provide for her and just try to enjoy our ever dwindling time together. As MS entrenched itself, and the battle lines were drawn, I was fully aware that it was just a matter of time. I accepted this inevitability, and was as prepared as I could be when the end finally came.
As I continue with the mourning process, however, I have come upon a sixth stage, which may be unique to caregivers:
About two weeks after Tracey's passing, I finally had a good night's sleep. I went to work the next day full of energy, and had what was probably the most productive day I have ever had. As I made my commute home, I still felt terrific, AS IF A TREMENDOUS WEIGHT HAD BEEN LIFTED OFF OF MY SHOULDERS.
I think you know where I'm going here.
By the time I got home that evening, the guilt started setting in. How could I possibly feel relieved, when the love of my life and the best thing that ever happened to me was gone? I was in a place I had never been before. Fortunately, some of those in my inner circle had been through similar situations. Though they don't like to talk about it, they had all experienced the same thing.
What I've learned is that when your loved one passes, you have two choices. Here, I will reference a line from one of my favorite movies: "Get busy living, or get busy dying." Try to establish a new normal, and get on with your life. There still might be some great things in store for you.