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Emotions

A feeling of relief after your operation may be followed by some emotional changes such as mood swings, depression, becoming easily upset and a lack of energy. These feelings can last for a brief period and are often related to the following:

  • Anesthesia
  • Medications
  • Loss of sleep
  • Stress of surgery

Returning home can be challenging experience for some patients and families. Patients may feel a relief in returning home together with insecurity about leaving the care of the hospital. Loved ones can be overprotective, not sure what the patient can or cannot do. Some common emotions experienced by patients and caregivers are:

Fear/anxiety

Returning home is a trial and error period. The patient might experience the fear of doing too much and not having the care that was available in the hospital.

This fear might create anxiety symptoms such as palpitations, or sweaty hands. This can appear worrisome, as symptoms may be similar to a cardiac event.

Family members may experience significant worry about the patient. They might appear overprotective, not letting the patient do much for themselves. It is important to remember that at times some symptoms such as palpitations, sweaty hands are symptoms of anxiety and not of a cardiac event.

Grief

Grief is referred to the process of accepting what is lost. After cardiac surgery there might be some adjustments that are difficult to accept both for patients and families.

This is a period when both patient and caregiver start to appreciate how this diagnosis changes their lives.

"Illness, and perhaps only illness, gives us permission to slow down ...illness restores the sense of proportion of what is lost when we take life for granted... Among the basic rights that should belong to every human is that of experiencing what is happening to oneself... To grieve well is to value what is lost. When you can value the feeling of loss, you value life itself, and you begin to live again"

Grief includes different phases or presentations, which include:

Denial
Patient might deny that there are any changes and may pretend things will quickly return to normal.

Anger
Occasionally patient and or family may experience angry feeling towards the changes that they are experiencing. They may ask why this happened to them.

Sadness/Depression
After cardiac surgery patients contemplate on their lives, and start recalling all they have lost. Although some losses are very real, some are perceived. This might increase the feeling of sadness. 

Sadness after surgery is common and it subsides while you adjust to your life after cardiac surgery. The difference between sadness and depression can be unclear. It is important be aware of the severity and persistence of both. 

Some important questions to ask might be:

  • Do you feel so sad that you have lost hope that you will ever feel better?
  • Do you feel so sad that you cannot cope with your everyday life?
  • Do you feel so sad that you feel that life is not worth living?

If you find that the sadness has increased to the point that you cannot cope, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor, and or access some available community resources to help you with depression.

Guilt
Some patients and families might experience feelings of regret about things they could have done to avoid surgery. These can include eating better or quit smoking.

It is important to understand the denial, anger, sadness and guilt as a part of our grieving process.

Caregiver's emotions

It is important to recognize that caregivers experience very specific emotions as well.

  • Some caregivers might feel a sense of hopelessness in not being able to do much about seeing a loved one in pain.
  • Caregivers can feel a high level of fear about the patient doing too much and may act over protective.
  • For some caregivers is difficult to find the balance between the "right" amount of responsibility, and "too much" responsibility.

Some caregivers might feel resentment if they feel they are assuming "too much" responsibility. This might cause a feeling of guilt about feeling resentment.

As a caregiver you have the right to your feelings. It is important to take care of yourself, and find appropriate resources for you. If you feel you need someone to speak with, please let the team know.