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Caregiver Guilt

By Dorothy Womack 

(Page 1 of 2)

The role of a caregiver at home is usually accompanied by varying degrees of guilt. This happens regardless of our effectiveness, as it seems to be virtually impossible to care for our loved ones and simultaneously face the realities that we will inevitably lose them. Most of us eventually confront not only the loss of our loved ones, but the guilt that we could have done more, should have known better, would have done differently in retrospect. This increases not only our guilt, but our grief as well. We long to spare our loved ones from the ongoing progression of disease and death – but we cannot save or rescue them. As caregivers, I sometimes think we have placed on ourselves an unattainable goal. Deep inside we begin to believe that we are responsible for the life or death of our loved one. And we become helpless in the face of the inevitable; life in the body ceases to function and life in the spirit begins. Our loved ones depart houses no longer adequate to hold them and move onto a new dimension, while we remain behind, often shattered by our grief and shackled by our guilt. Our grief is only compounded when we are weighed down with guilt. The energy that we spend trying to desperately avoid the ultimate end is almost Herculean in nature. What we often do not realize is that at the end of human life exists a new beginning, not just for our loved ones but for us as well. And for many caregivers, the grief process can take much longer to work through. The guilt we carry slows the normal grief process as it drains the energy needed to work through it.

The holidays can be particularly difficult as we begin to dwell more at this time of year on our loss. Holidays are a time for family, and when a loved one has died, it can make surviving this season almost an impossible task. For many, our first reaction is to just not celebrate the holiday in effort to avoid the pain of our loss. Perhaps it would be better to look at this time of year as a way in which to celebrate the life our loved one lived, and to recall the comfort and joy these family traditions brought us in the past. This can provide one the chance to create new traditions as well, and in doing so help to move forward in the grieving process. Whatever decision is made regarding the holidays, try to make it from your heart. Allow yourself to feel. By suppressing our feelings, we only prolong the pain. And ultimately prolong the grief. Follow your heart and do not let guilt for what should have been destroy your peace of mind.


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