What Is Caregiver’s Guilt? Understanding and Overcoming a Common Emotion


Posted on September 13, 2018 by

Caregivers dedicate a huge amount of selfless time and energy toward attending to their elderly or ill loved ones. When this loved one eventually passes, it is common to experience a variety of emotions, including regret, anger, or even a sense of relief from the burden of caregiving.  Many people find these feeling to be uncomfortable, as it can be difficult to reconcile them with the grief of their loved one’s passing, and this whirlwind of emotions can lead to a feeling of guilt.

This feeling is part of a phenomenon called “caregiver’s guilt”.  It is completely natural and often accompanies a loved one’s death.  Here’s what you need to know about processing these difficult emotions.

Recognize the Emotion

Many people fail to recognize that they’re feeling caregiver’s guilt. One of the first steps in processing this emotion properly is recognizing it for what it is. After a loved one’s death, take some time for introspection, and name the feelings as you’re experiencing them. A range of emotions is normal following a loss: guilt, shame, relief, anger, sorrow, and more. Once you recognize them and put them into words, they will be easier for you to work through.

Go Easy on Yourself

You just spent a lot of time and energy making your loved one’s final days as comfortable as possible. That can be mentally exhausting, and many people feel the cumulative effects of this exhaustion after a loved one passes. Give yourself time to feel whatever comes naturally. Don’t try to bury your emotions inside and go on with life as usual. Your life just experienced a significant upheaval – acknowledge it.

Examine Your Feelings of Guilt

Feelings of guilt are a common, but often undeserved, emotion. Take some time to reflect on why you’re feeling this way. Is there a disconnect between what you think you could have done and what you did? Are you feeling guilty about feelings of relief?  Guilt can often be a natural reaction but be careful how much you allow it to fester. Allow yourself to feel good about the fact that you did everything you could to make your loved one’s life more comfortable, and allow yourself to feel a sense of relief or peace that your loved one is no longer suffering.

Reach Out to a Friend

In these instances, it’s vital to reach out to your own support network. Talk to your friends and family members about the feelings you’re experiencing. They can help quell any unrest and give you reassurance about the care you provided while your loved one was with you. Admitting to someone else that you’re having a difficult time processing your emotions can go a long way toward making you feel better.

Talk to a Professional Grief Counselor

If you’ve tried all of the above suggestions and are still having trouble dealing with the emotions you’re experiencing, you might benefit from talking to a grief counselor.  A grief counselor is a professional who is trained and experienced in working with people in your exact situation, and can provide guidance you might not obtain otherwise.

Know that caregiver’s guilt is a very common phenomenon. People who dedicate part of their lives to caring for loved ones must process difficult emotions when that time ends. Knowing how to deal with these feelings in a healthy way is an essential part of healing.

Funerals360 has a library of additional articles to help you deal with the experience of losing a loved one.

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