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When Guilt Comes Knocking

By Kate Murphy, RN

Goodness, isn't that a familiar word? You would think that mature rational adults like us would be above feeling "guilt" about the emotions our care giving can evoke. Not so. I am a mature and rational adult. I am a registered nurse who works with the elderly and their families. I counseled these same families on how to deal with the everyday issues, including guilt!

Yet, there I was, reduced at times to a quivering mass of jelly by a word or a look from my parent. I took care parents for over 17 years. And, it took every bit of those 17 years to realize how easily I reacted to the buttons my parents have "pushed" to get me to do what they wanted. It often caused untold hardship to my personal life, yet I refused to see it for what it was. Worse, I refused to take appropriate action to ensure that it did not happen again. It was finally through the wonder of this truly magical medium, the Internet, that I was able to recognize and deal with guilt. There were days that I would rather not live through again, and there is still a little part of me that still feels a twinge every now and then. But I survived the journey, and I am here to tell every one of you out there that there is help for you. 

We help each other. We support each other. And we make caregiving a little easier for each other. The fact that you are here is one of the first steps in getting that help. I am no expert. But I am a caregiver who has had to deal with all sorts of problems.
Dealing with Guilt--okay enough of the clichés you say. How DO you deal with the guilt, you may ask? Well, I can give you a list of references (and probably will, now that I think about it), but I found that just reading about something doesn't always cut it for me. So I will try to express here one or two of the things that I personally found helpful.

Once I was able to recognize that guilt existed within me, I had to also realize that no one gave it to me. Guilt is a self-made emotion. We do it to ourselves. We take those words, or actions of others and internalize them. Probably because we are looking for a reason to be guilty. Whatever the reason is that causes the guilt to develop, it is wasted energy. It is energy that we could be using for good, healthy, and, productive outlets.

Kate’s Rule number 1… NEVER GO TO SLEEP FEELING GUILTY!!! Really, I mean it!! Each night before I go to sleep, before I ask God for strength to get through tomorrow, or thank Him for today's blessings, I ask myself one question. Do I believe in my heart that I have done the best that I could today for my loved one and myself? Notice I said MYSELF. If I fail to do the best for me, how can I possibly be any good to anyone else? And never mind what others have to say about what you are doing or how your are doing it. YOU are the one providing care my dear, and YOU are the one living it everyday. What you believe about your actions is all that matters. And if you truly believe that you have done your best on this one day, then you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. 

So the next time guilt comes knocking at your door, don't answer it. Leave it outside where it belongs. And when you put your head down on that pillow tonight, rest easy knowing that you are doing the very best that you can with what you have been given.
 



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