Guilt can be a cruel and controlling emotion. As caregivers, we often feel guilty for losing our tempers, for having negative feelings toward our care receivers, or for wanting a little time for ourselves. Unless you have intentionally inflicted physical or emotional pain on someone else, however, guilt is not an appropriate response.
Here’s a little test to determine if your feelings of guilt are being imposed upon you by a guilt-tripper:
- If you have an accident, come down with a cold, or have a crisis at work, are they concerned about you, or do they only think about how inconvenient it will be for them?
- Does it seem that no matter how much you do or give, it is never enough?
- If you take a little time off to do something for yourself, do they get angry, give you the cold shoulder, or accuse you of being unloving or selfish?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, it is likely that you are dealing with a guilt-tripper. People who use anger and guilt to control others only think of themselves. They will never tell you to stop because you are doing too much, and they will never tell you to take care of yourself.
It may be difficult, but you must accept the fact that guilt-trippers do not change. If you are tired of feeling guilty when you haven’t done anything wrong, it will be up to you to change the way you respond.
It’s both normal and acceptable to regret how the life of the loved one you care for and your life have changed as a result of an illness or injury. It’s natural to feel tremendous sadness and disappointment over the progression of a disease.
But it is not healthy for you to stop living your life and accept the responsibility for your loved one’s physical or emotional state. You didn’t cause it. You can’t change it. If your body is still healthy, if you can still pursue a career, if you can enjoy being with family and friends–– feel grateful, not guilty.
For more information on coping with caregiver guilt, please check out the video, “Coping with Caregiver Guilt.”
Elaine K. Sanchez is the author of the book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver.” She is also the co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, an online caregiver support program, and she frequently delivers keynotes, workshops and trainings at healthcare and caregiving conferences across the country. You can contact her directly at email@example.com.