Unearned Guilt Intrinsic to Most Caregivers
If ever there’s a group of people who suffer deeply from unearned guilt, it’s caregivers. Whether you’re the parent of a vulnerable adult, an adult child of aging parents, or the spouse of a vulnerable adult, you are bound to have your “if only” times when you are sucked into the quicksand of guilt. The reality is that most things you could have done differently wouldn’t have made a huge difference overall. Even if another approach would have made a difference, you can’t go back. Staying mired in guilt is counterproductive for you as well as your care receiver.
While some reasons caregivers feel guilty are unique to their situation, many are commonly shared in caregiving. Below, I’ve listed four causes of unearned guilt that most caregivers share, along with some ideas that I hope will help you look at your situation more realistically:
- You feel trapped and resentful: When people feel helplessly trapped into a way of life that they don’t choose and may not feel equipped for, it’s natural for them to feel angry. However, anger doesn’t seem like an appropriate reaction when you know that the person you’re caring for didn’t choose to be so vulnerable, either. Therefore, rather than find an appropriate way to express anger, many turn it into self-punishment and resentment. Other – better – caregivers don’t have negative thoughts as you do, right?
Reality check: Wrong. Most caregivers will, at least occasionally, have these feelings. You are not alone, and you are not a bad person. You are a human being who’d like some control over your own life. You didn’t ask to be put in a situation where you have little chance to work on fulfilling even the simplest of your own dreams. Yet, the situation presented itself and you stepped up to the plate.