How Should Caregivers Feel?

This is a complex question that should not even have to be asked.  Yet, caregivers are often placed in a situation where they feel they must come across a certain way around others.  They must be strong and able to handle each challenge without breaking down.  They have to remove any feeling of resentment because that would be wrong to feel and others may judge them.  In fact, they should feel blessed to be caregivers because it is an honor to help a loved one, a friend, a patient, a child, or whomever they care for each day.  So, how should a caregiver feel?

A caregiver should feel however they feel.

It is wrong to limit the emotions a caregiver is allowed to feel because caregiving is one of the most difficult tasks a person can take on.  The dynamics can cause a plethora of emotions depending on the relationship between the caregiver and the cared for.  A caregiver may resent cleaning up vomit or diarrhea each day, and not consider that aspect of caring a blessing.  This is perfectly fine because emotions cannot be swept aside or locked away.  A caregiver could feel their life is falling apart around them as they watch a loved one gradually lose touch with the world around them until they become a mere reflection of who they were.  This is natural.  Caregiving is difficult, painful, heartbreaking, and traumatic at times.  Caregivers will feel stressed, burdened, and overwhelmed.

The good news is that in many ways, caregivers also get other emotions that will make up for the rest.  Sometimes, they get to connect with a loved one on a deeper level.  Perhaps, they find a peace in knowing they can provide care that is better than care from a stranger.  A caregiver may find strength in the role of carer because it gives them a purpose more meaningful than what they have had in other areas of their life.

The most important thing people can do is to recognize that if you are on the outside of caregiving, but looking in, you need to respect the feelings of the caregiver.  Judgement should never be passed on those who devote their life to the caring of others.  If anything, listen to them, validate them, and support them.  Sometimes a caregiver just needs to know they are recognized, and sometimes they just need to be left alone.  Respect their wishes, and provide relief every now and then if you can.

For those caregivers, do not hide your feelings, and do not feel like you are wrong to feel anger, resentment, and guilt.  Your emotions are yours, and you should own them, feel them, validate them, and when you are ready, move past them.  This is part of caring for yourself, which will enable you to continue to care for others.

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