Guilt is a really common feeling among caregivers. It can also be destructive in your life and your family. Why do we feel this way? Sometimes, it’s because we’ve done something we are ashamed of. Maybe you snapped at your loved one because you’re tired, hungry, or just plain old cranky. Maybe it was because they were out of line. But there’s this nagging thought in the back of your mind, telling you that they should get a pass because they have cancer. Who’s going to give you a pass? Hopefully, they will (and you certainly should), especially if you’ve apologized and tried to make amends. We all make mistakes in relationships. This is why forgiveness is so important, to give and to accept. Give up the caregiver Guilt
Give up the caregiver guilt for human errors.
I have gone to nearly all of my husband’s appointments. Don’t feel bad if you don’t join your loved one at their appointments. Our cancer journeys are all different. The 1st time I had to miss an appointment was because I accidentally scheduled one of my daughter’s appointments at the same time. I felt terrible. Both appointments were important.
I went to my daughter’s because she needed me there far more than my husband needed me at his. No one else was upset. They just needed to get to their appointments, but I was angry at myself for making the scheduling error, and even for not being able to be in 2 places at once. I still haven’t learned the art of bi-location, but I have learned to give up the caregiver guilt I feel about things like this. It’s okay that I’m not the perfect caregiver. I haven’t met one yet.
Give up the caregiver guilt you feel for being good to yourself
You have to learn to live well, despite your loved one’s cancer. This can be really hard. Often we feel guilty for taking care of our own physical, emotional, and social needs when our loved one is sick. But, it’s important to maintain balance in your life. Part of that is practicing self-care.
An Airplane Analogy
Most people have heard the comparison to an in-flight emergency on an airplane. I often avoid mentioning it because it is a cliché. But, it’s a perfect example. The oxygen masks drop down. The first thing you are supposed to do is put on your own oxygen mask—not your spouses mask, or even your child’s. If you attempt to help them before securing your mask, there is a good chance you will pass out before you can help them. Instead, take care of yourself, and then you can help them.
It’s hard to give up the caregiver guilt, even to do self-care. But, it’s important to find ways to restore your spirit—perhaps even more so, when your loved one has an incurable diagnosis. It’s possible your loved one could survive for years. You wouldn’t let a plant go unwatered for that long, right?
For the Love of Mushrooms
For several years I thought about joining the Minnesota Mycological Society. I put it off because it didn’t seem practical with all of my current responsibilities. There are a couple of meetings a month and in the summer there are forays. It seemed wrong to leave my family to their own devices. Then, this past August when I visited their booth at the Minnesota State Fair, I decided to give up the caregiver guilt and take the plunge. I purchased a family membership to the MMS. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.
I often take one of the kids with me to the meetings, so they have learned a lot, and Dan actually enjoys foraging for mushrooms when we go walking in the summertime. I’ve got a new passion that invigorates me. Not only did I give up the caregiver guilt, but my husband is glad that I am getting out of the house and doing something I love.
It can be helpful to talk to someone outside the situation.
Seeking professional help is a good idea at any stage of the cancer journey, for a lot of reasons. One of them is to help you give up caregiver guilt. You will likely always feel some measure of caregiver guilt from time to time. Talking it out and having realistic expectations, given the circumstance will help keep caregiver guilt at bay.
Once again I will be doing double duty in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be sharing ways to avoid burnout, here at Facing Cancer with Grace. At Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways of thinking creatively, using Brainsparker’s Kickstart Course of A to Z prompts. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you experience caregiver guilt? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker