This short article on caregiver guilt is an excerpt from the book Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness: Common Sense Caregiving (stayafloatbook.com). The author is Gary Joseph LeBlanc. The article is from a recent issue of Preserving Your Memory magazine.
This excerpt summarizes the article:
“Try not to berate yourself about areas in which you think you may have failed. Instead, focus on all the positive things you accomplished along the way. Think of the enhanced quality of life you single-handedly brought to your loved one. Remember, you will remain in their heart forever.”
The full article is copied below.
Coping with Caregiver Guilt
Preserving Your Memory
By Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Guilt is an overpowering and complicated emotion but appears to have a purpose in the life of human beings. When knowing we’ve done something wrong, by all means, we should experience a touch of shame.
If you are a caregiver there will be times when waves of guilt will wash right over you. There doesn’t have to be any wrongdoing to cause this. The simple reason is that you care so deeply that you never feel adequate performing this role.
For example, you may finally get a chance to do something for yourself. Let’s say you go out to get an overdue haircut. The whole time you’re sitting in the salon chair you can’t stop thinking about something bad happening while you are away. You rush straight home, instead of taking advantage of the rare and well-deserved respite break. Even when you find, to your relief, that all is well, you still experience that guilt monster.
Then there’s always that “little white lie.” You may be visiting your loved one at his or her adult living facility or the hospital. You need to be at work in a couple of hours, but you like to have at least one hour to yourself before you begin your shift. Suddenly you find yourself saying, “My boss asked if I could come in early today so I’m going to have to leave now.” Meanwhile, throughout your whole work shift, you once again feel guilt doing somersaults in your stomach.
There’s not a caregiver out there that doesn’t worry about whether or not the job he or she is doing is good enough. Even after your loved one has passed you will go through a stage of beating yourself up, wondering whether or not there was something more you could have done for your loved one.
The strong emotion of guilt that caregivers endure is just part of human nature. Go to a caregiver’s support group and ask all those surrounding you. They will tell you that they are experiencing or have experienced the exact same feelings. All caregivers face the same unattainable goal of sparing their loved ones the pain that comes with any disease. Everyone’s desire is to provide a compassionate passing.
Deep inside, we all believe that we, as caregivers, are to some degree responsible for what happens to our stricken loved ones in the end. Sadly, some endings can be downright cruel, not only to the one afflicted with the disease but also to the ones that have to witness the perishing.
Caregivers get hit with a double-whammy. While trying to wade through all the sadness and grievance, they get swept away by a pronounced tide of guilt. But take heart; this guilt trip will slowly start to fade, finally leaving you with just the normal amount of grief, which is bad enough.
With the passing of your loved one, life has just spun around 180 degrees. Everything you have trained yourself to do has come to a complete halt. That grueling fast pace lifestyle you lived has just stopped itself on a dime. It’s almost as if you have to learn to breathe all over again.
Try not to berate yourself about areas in which you think you may have failed. Instead, focus on all the positive things you accomplished along the way. Think of the enhanced quality of life you single-handedly brought to your loved one. Remember, you will remain in their heart forever.
Unfortunately, guilt is a normal emotion in life. These bouts of guilt you feel only prove what a caring individual you truly are.[This is] an excerpt from Gary Joseph LeBlanc’s book, “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness: Common Sense Caregiving,” which is now available in an expanded edition. You can order the book at stayingafloatbook.com