Guilt is one of the most common feelings a caregiver can have as they navigate the landscape between caring for their parent, raising a family, and attempting to do a few personal things along the way. If you have to miss a child’s soccer game because you have to take your dad to the doctor, you think you’re falling short. And if you attempt to do something for yourself – a massage, for instance – the guilt you face while you’re lying there on the table can almost overwhelm all possible benefits.
If you are the kind of person who is prone to feelings of guilt, learning to manage those feelings can help serve you rather than leaving you breathless and overwhelmed.
Start by recognizing your guilt. When you begin to drift towards the blame game, catch yourself and put your feelings in their place. Unrecognized guilt eats away at your soul; but realizing you are having those feelings can help you get to the root of the issue.
Dig deeper and look at all of your feelings. Guilt is usually caused by deeper feelings. If you are guilty about missing your child’s soccer game because of taking your dad to a doctor appointment, digging deeper may bring up more feelings. Maybe you resent your new role because its changed your family life. Dealing with the anger can also help you put your guilty feelings at bay.
Give yourself a break. We all go through our good days and our bad ones. And when we add in caregiver duties, sometimes those cloudy days take on an entirely new meaning. Give yourself permission to have bad days along the way. Recognize that your feelings and actions are not interrelated and guilt will subside if you choose not to focus on it.
What is causing the guilt in the first place? Dig to the root of the problem. When you miss a child’s soccer game for instance, it may make you feel like you are missing a portion of your child’s life, or that you aren’t being a good parent. Talking with your child can make both of you feel better and more comfortable dealing with your new lifestyle. It can also give you a chance to plan activities that you can do together.
Do something just for you. While in many cases you can reason out all the issues that are changing in your life, one of the hardest to reconcile is that you still desire “you” time as well. With so much on your plate, how can you justify spending time with yourself? This is often one of the biggest hurdles a caregiver must overcome. You deserve “you” time. If you don’t take care of you, who will? You can only be a great caregiver if you are healthy yourself. Schedule time regularly just for you, even if its just an hour for a walk or a massage.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Too often caregivers accept the burden as solely their own. While others in your network may sympathize with what you are going through, they often don’t know what they can do. Reach out to a friend and say, “I’m having trouble with my new role, can you listen for a few minutes?” Or call a family meeting and ask other members to pitch in. Don’t take no for an answer – create a schedule if necessary. In many cases the people around you want to help, they just don’t want to step on your toes and cause more turmoil in your life. By opening up the pathway, in many cases its easy to continue the conversation.
Reinvent you. With the caregiving role comes a lot of change. And while you may put a lot of your focus on your loved one, its also a time to start reflecting on you. What are your goals? Who is the ideal you? How do you want to inspire those around you? What do you want to do differently with your family? Who do you want to be? Sometimes these questions are difficult to ask when you’re so busy with daily activities. But as new ideas pop up, don’t push them away; run with them instead. It may be a great time to start a reflection journal and keep track of the new you you are becoming.