I’ve not yet met a fellow caregiver who, at some point, hasn’t expressed at least one regret…maybe more. Caregiving can be extremely rewarding and challenging. The rewards are pretty clear.
On the challenging side, there is care delivery. Caregivers end up on the front lines providing services that, in the past, have been in the hands of trained healthcare practitioners. Patients are moved home at a faster rate out of hospitals and treatment centers often leaving injections, wound care, medication oversight, and more in the hands of the family.
Another challenge that weighs on caregivers are the medical care decisions especially, if they don’t turn out for the best.
Finally, over time, we buckle under the stress, worry, fear, physical and emotional exhaustion. Sometimes, in those moments, we don’t show up as our best selves and we often judge ourselves harshly for it.
Caregiver remorse can be complex – a combination of guilt, shame, sadness, grief – it’s a cocktail of some of the darker layers of feelings that can lead to depression and impact many aspects of our wellbeing.
When we lose a loved one we’ve been caring for, all of this is amplified further, particularly if the caregiver perceives their delivery of care or role in the decision making process may have contributed in some way. You owe it to yourself to make peace with the past. Here are three ways that have worked for grieving caregivers I’ve coached:
Forgive yourself. We are our own worst critics. We hold ourselves accountable to a much higher level than we would others. You meant no harm. You did your best under very difficult circumstances. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved one. They would not want you to waste precious time feeling guilty.
Let go. Find a way to release the past. We can experience healing through art. Painting, writing, dancing, sculpting, building, quilting – whatever helps you focus in the moment and create something while tapping your artistic side can help you move forward and find moments of peace.
Live on purpose. There is great healing when we find a channel for the energy of grief and loss. Helping others, especially when you can take what you learned from your experience and make the journey a little easier for someone else, can bring peace and a sense of purpose to your life that may have been buried by the grief.