Author Jaye Tee Explores After Dementia Caregiving Ends in: 13 Months, Diary of a Caregiver’s Grief

About Jaye Tee - 13 Months: Diary of a Caregiver's Grief

13 Months: Diary of a Caregiver's Grief - Jaye TeeBy Jaye Tee

What happens when the caregiving ends?

I didn’t think enough about this question during my time as a dementia caregiver for my grandmother. Partly due to trying to keep up with the demands of caregiving and dealing with crisis after crisis. Partly because I wasn’t emotionally able to face the idea of a life without her.

I always publicly acknowledged that an end was coming. I discussed practicalities with doctors and providers. I disclosed preparations and my grief support plans. But I never really allowed myself to sink into the depths of the question. Instead, I stayed in my head and at the surface of my feelings. All the while, the full-range of my emotions kept building up beneath the surface—from the heart-wrenching experience of watching my grandmother’s decline, to the turmoil of plummeting into a pit of “dementia caregiver quicksand,” to the end I couldn’t face.

When the end arrived, I wasn’t remotely prepared for the tsunami of emotions unleashed by grief. The support plans and expectations I created shattered.

Throughout my process, I found the grief following dementia caregiving to be especially bewildering and complex. My mind obsessed over past decisions, certain I had not done enough. I relived symptoms of my grandmother’s dementia progression wondering why I hadn’t noticed them sooner. All I remembered were my mistakes as her caregiver.

I also encountered stigma related to grief and dementia caregiving. I felt as if I were allotted only a certain amount of time to grieve, along with a pressure to focus on the positive and conceal the hard realities of dementia. These societal expectations only made the grief process more complicated and challenging. Soon, I found myself riddled with shame about the messiness of my grief.

Only when I let myself open up to what I began to call “full-emotion grieving” did a shift occur. It was at this time that I learned I was experiencing post-caregiver PTSD. Together, these revelations unveiled a path toward healing. I slowly started to treat myself with self-acceptance and compassion. I no longer restrained my emotions. From there, I allowed myself to settle deep into my grief process, which finally offered me understanding and transformation.

My hope with 13 Months: Diary of a Caregiver’s Grief is to support others dealing with grief after the dementia caregiving comes to an end. I was compelled to open up and share my story of “grief’s messiness” to help normalize the full-range of emotions and reactions that can surface. I felt so alone and embarrassed during my grief process. The intense and uncontrollable emotions created such despair and confusion that I was unable to recognize they were the gateway to my healing. For those with similar experiences, know you are not alone. Whatever someone feels as they grieve is more than okay. Though it may not seem clear at the time, the exact path each person is on contains the keys to hope, self-acceptance and healing.

Jaye - Tee

About the Author:

Jaye Tee received her master’s degree in counseling and has spent over 20 years in the field of mental health and addiction services as a therapist, supervisor and instructor.

Throughout much of that time she also acted as a caregiver for her grandmother and saw her caregiving role steadily increase as her grandmother’s aging, dementia and various medical conditions worsened. After her grandmother’s death, Jaye found herself lost in the despair of grief. Falsely believing that her training as a therapist would help her navigate this loss, she soon started to question all she was taught about grief. Unable to make sense of her experiences, Jaye began to search for a more humane approach to understanding the realities and complexities of grief and healing after dementia caregiving. The experience led her to write this book as a way to advocate for caregivers in all varieties and those struggling with grief in its many forms.

Jaye lives and works in the Midwest where she specializes in holistic healing practices. In her free time, she continues to bake, using her grandmother’s recipes, passionately cheer on the San Antonio Spurs and search for new varieties of churros to eat.

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