How Do I Get Rid of the Guilt?


How Do I Get Rid of the Guilt?

guilt-mdOn a regular basis, family caregivers will ask me: How do I deal with all this guilt?

Because it can seem like caregiving is a party of three: You, your caree and your guilt.

You may feel guilty for what you have that your caree no longer does: Good health, friends who call you, activities you can enjoy.

You also may feel guilty for what you can't do for your caree. You can't take away the pain. You can't provide cure. And, you can't be as available as often as your caree would like.

In essence, you may feel guilty because you have too much life and too little time.

If you let it, guilt will paint you in a corner. A few suggestions on how to avoid the trap:

1. If you give up on your life, you make caregiving much, much harder than it has to be. If you give up what you enjoy out of guilt because your caree can't, you've created a situation ripe for bitterness and resentment. Enjoy your life. Sacrificing what you love for the sake of your caree won't cure your caree. It will only hurt you and your caree.

2. Whatever you can do is enough. If you need a break on Wednesday evenings, take a break. Hire help, ask a family member, find a volunteer to fill in for you. It's okay if your caree doesn't agree with your decision to take a break. You must look out for your own health--physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

3. You can't make another person happy. It may seem like you can, but you can't. And, when a caree has experienced extensive losses (loss of friends, spouse, health), you can't make up for those losses. If you are concerned about your caree's mental health, seek out services through your local Area Agency on Aging, Easter Seals and other social service organizations.

4. Eliminate your own personal disclaimers, such as "I'm a good daughter if I drop everything to be available for my mother." Simply know you are a good daughter (or son or spouse). When you take away the conditions ("I'm only a good daughter if I do as I'm told") then you lose guilt's hold. You are a good daughter (or son or spouse). Let go of believing you have to prove it. Simply be it in a way that fits you.

5. Remove the comparisons. You may hear what others do for their carees and think, "I'm really a horrible caregiver." What works for others simply works for others. Determine what works for you and leave it at that.

6. Create your own job description for how you help your caree. When you're clear on how much you can do, you understand how doing too much will come back to haunt you. When you're clear about what you can do, you can clearly say "No" to requests that are too much for you.

Getting rid of the guilt can feel like a start and stop process. Sometimes, you start off well. Sometimes, you can barely stop. Fighting off guilt takes practice. Allow yourself starts and stops and do-overs. When you practice often enough, you'll be able to shake off any feelings of guilt.

How do you cope with your feelings of guilt? Please add your suggestions in our comments section, below.


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