It is Sunday morning, and my friends invited me to go out for brunch. It has been a long, tiring week and I was looking forward to the change of scenery. However, I should be visiting my mother who lives in a nursing home an hour away from me. I find myself facing a dilemma. If I go out, I will feel guilty about not seeing my loved one. If I don’t, I will most likely not enjoy the visit. Does this scenario resonate?
Guilt is a feeling most of us are familiar with. It is this nagging voice in our mind that reprimands us for our perceived transgressions. Usually, those feelings are brief and quickly resolved.
However, there are situations when the feelings of guilt can seem overwhelming and long-lasting. As a family caregiver, many of us carry around plenty of guilt. We feel guilty because we think we have not done enough for our loved ones. We also feel guilty for what we have done as it might have been inadequate. Maybe, we feel guilty for being healthy and living our lives. Guilt is a complicated emotion and often accompanied by anger and resentment. Over time, these feelings and thoughts can make us more stressed and even sick. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of American (ADAA), 40-70% of caregivers show symptoms of depression.
So how do we navigate the cycle of guilt, anger, and resentment?
You can start off by accepting feelings of guilt as simply being a part of life. Show yourself some compassion for having these thoughts. The key lies in not striving for perfection. It is natural to want the best for our loved ones, but we should aim for realistic goals.
Find and maintain a balance of what works for you and your family. As much as we care for our loved one, we always need to keep our own well-being in mind. We cannot be good caregivers if we don’t take care of ourselves and our needs.
And finally, don’t let guilt be the only motivating factor in caring for your loved one. If you find yourself growing resentful and angry, step back, take a break and get a different perspective.