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The Caregiver's Cairn: Got Guilt?

Blog by Jane Barton

Greetings one and all...


Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. A little break in the action is needed from time to time. However, if you are like most caregivers, you probably feel a wee bit guilty taking time for yourself. Right? Today, I would like to address the issue of guilt in the context of caregiving. Caregiving is hard enough without adding the extra burden of guilt. Perhaps by recognizing the common sources of guilt, we can begin to intentionally lighten the load.

When considering the nature of caregiving, there is more than ample opportunity to feel guilty. Think about it from the perspective of the care giver. Some feel guilty about what they feel, what they do and don’t do, and what they think! Some also feel guilty because they are the care giver instead of the care receiver. In the case of terminal illness, they ultimately feel guilty because they survive. And, we feel guilty about our sense of relief that the journey is over.

Now, consider the journey from the perspective of the care receiver. They might feel guilty about what they feel, what they do and don’t do, and what they think! Some feel guilty because they are the care receiver instead of the care giver. In the case of terminal illness, they could ultimately feel guilty because they die, leaving loved ones to continue on without them. And,  some may  feel guilty about wanting the journey to end.

Amazing, eh? Care givers and care receivers can share common sources of guilt. The perspective is different(giving or receiving), but the emotional experience can be  the same. Guilt. Why do some feel guilty as care givers and care receivers? Unmet or unrealized expectations. Our own as well as the expectations of others. Guilt is nourished by the “shoulds” of caregiving. I should have done more. I should have been there. I shouldn’t have yelled at my mother. I should be able to work and care for my husband. No wonder the burden of guilt grows to staggering proportions if ignored. There is a seemingly endless supply of “shoulds” to sustain our sense of guilt.

So, how can we lay our burdens down? Here are some things to consider…First, have realistic expectations of ourselves, of others, and of life. Second, understand that care giving and care receiving are not about perfection. We will all make mistakes along the way. Third, be gentle with yourself and with your family. The caregiving journey can be challenging for all involved. And finally, consider talking with your family and friends about how you feel. More than likely, you will discover you are not alone. When in the company of supportive, compassionate souls, the burden of guilt lessens as we learn to acknowledge and honor all that we offer and all that we are. Now that IS something we should do!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at and we will be in touch soon!

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