CaringBridge Staff | 04.04.22
Caregiving can be hard. Really hard. In fact, a 2021 survey by the national movement ARCHANGELS found that 44 percent of caregivers using CaringBridge rated themselves as “super-stressed.”
Part of this stress can come from the emotional aspect of caregiving–feelings of guilt can creep up when you least expect them to. You may feel as if you’re not doing enough for your loved one. You may feel guilty for considering placing your loved one into a care facility. Or, you may feel guilt after your loved one has passed away.
Caregiver guilt is completely normal. And, at the end of the day, it’s an emotion that highlights just how much you care. If you’re experiencing guilt, please know that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone in this. We’ve gathered some tips from real caregivers to help you cope and move forward.
1. Take Some Time for Self-Care
In the hustle and bustle of caregiving, it’s easy to neglect yourself. You know what they say, though—you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Take some time for yourself in the midst of your responsibilities. Self-care means different things for everyone. At its simplest, it can mean getting enough sleep at night and taking naps when you need them. It can also mean taking time for activities like reading, or yoga. If so, carve out a couple of hours to dig into a new book or visit your yoga studio. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve compiled ways, some simple and some a bit more involved, to incorporate self-care into your life.
Sometimes, you may feel like you don’t have one second for anything else in your day, or the energy to do these things even if you did. But self-care doesn’t have to mean taking a whole spa day. Instead, it can simply mean taking five minutes to stretch or sip your coffee on the front porch. The important thing is being intentional and doing something just for you.
Self-care can also mean understanding your emotions and honoring them. If your guilt feels too heavy or if you’re experiencing burnout, consider asking a friend or family member to step into your role for a day or two so you can take a much-deserved break.
For some caregivers, this is unfortunately not an option. But organizations like the nonprofit Family Caregiver Alliance offer state directories of licensed respite-care options.
2. Join a Support Group
Sometimes, being a caregiver can feel a bit lonely. You may feel as if your friends or family just don’t understand how you feel. Joining a support group can help you connect with like-minded individuals who may be struggling with caregiver guilt too.
“Join a support group. Priceless.”
To find support groups in your area, you can do a quick Google search (or check out our roundup on caregiver support groups). Or, you can also join online caregiving support groups via social media platforms like Facebook.
3. Let it All Out
Eventually, bottled up emotions have to go somewhere. Take some time to yourself to just let it all out. If you feel the need to cry, cry. If you want to write out your feelings, write them out. If you need to pray, pray. If you need to call a friend to vent, do it.
In these times, it may be helpful to seek the support of a therapist who can give you the tools you need to cope. There are many options available today, depending on your needs. For example, you could try online talk therapy or do a search for therapists in your area.
“Find a quiet place just for you if it’s only for 5 minutes. It’s alright to cry, it will relieve your tension. Learn how to release your stress, even if it’s only singing. Have a relishing with God and ask him to give you strength and courage to face everything. Believe me it helps.”
4. Give Yourself Some Grace
How you feel in this moment is just as important as how your loved one feels. Your wellness is a priority, too.
“What you feel, no matter what it is, is valid. You need to realize that your feelings are just as important.”
The work you’re doing makes you a hero–even when it doesn’t feel like it–so consider giving yourself credit for all your hard work. Even when guilt arises, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing something incredible for your loved one.
“I have been a caregiver several times over. You are there when most are not. You are their hero.”
Take some time today to consider just how amazing you are. If you need to, write some encouraging quotes on sticky notes and place them around your home or in your car. Whatever it takes to remind you that you matter, both inside your role as caregiver and outside of it.
What’s Your Story?
If you’re a caregiver, how do you cope with feelings of guilt or remorse? If you feel comfortable, consider sharing your stories and ideas in the comments below. You may just inspire someone to keep going through the heavy emotions of caregiving.
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