Blog Home > Blog > Guilt and Grief as a Caregiver: Common Causes and 7 Tips for Prevention

Caring for a loved one with a debilitating injury or ailment comes with its fair share of positive and negative emotions. Some days you’ll feel incredibly appreciative of the time you get to spend with them, and others, you’ll feel bitter, guilty, angry, or resentful. This full spectrum of emotions can feel intense, but each emotion is valid. It’s exactly this emotional rollercoaster that can cause long-term problems for you if left unchecked. In this article, we’re going to focus on two of the most debilitating emotions caregivers may experience: guilt and grief.

Caregiver Guilt

Though it’s almost always undeserved, family caregivers frequently experience intense feelings of guilt. Here are some common situations that can create these feelings of guilt for caregivers:

  • Considering putting your loved one in a professional care community.
  • Fear that you’re not spending enough time with your loved one.
  • Abandoning other responsibilities in favor of care.
  • Comparing yourself to other caregivers, other parents, other children, other coworkers, etc.
  • Feeling resentful for the sacrifices that you’re making.
  • Dealing with your own health or personal issues.
  • Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
  • Etc.

Whatever your situation, caregiver guilt can be intense. If it’s left to flourish, you may experience new or worsening symptoms of anxiety, depression, burnout, and compassion fatigue.

Tips to Manage Caregiver Guilt

If you’ve been experiencing caregiver guilt, here are some ways to manage those feelings before they get out of hand.

  • Acknowledge your feelings. First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge that you are experiencing feelings of guilt. It’s a completely normal emotion to experience, but it can’t be resolved unless it’s acknowledged.
  • Trust your instincts. Remind yourself that regardless of how it feels, you are doing the absolute best you can in caring for your loved one. The choices that you’re making are well thought out and weighed against your specific circumstances. No two care experiences are the same, so comparing yourself to others in your shoes is unnecessary and unfair.
  • Make time for yourself. Often feelings like guilt arise when you are too deep in the details of care. Try working in some respite care so that you can take a break or delegate tasks where possible. This will give you much-needed breathing room to look at the bigger picture and recognize all you’re doing.
  • Accept your mistakes. You are a human being that cannot be perfect all the time. Hold yourself to the standard of human and forgive mistakes to the best of your ability. Everyone makes them.

Caregiver Grief

One of the most intense feelings you are likely to experience as a caregiver is grief. Grief is one of those emotions that can pose as another, especially if you have not yet lost the loved one in your care. Grieving a death and anticipatory grief are common experiences for caregivers. While traditional grief’s cause is very well known, anticipatory grief is less-so. Here are some situations that can cause anticipatory grief:

  • The change in your relationship. In other words, mourning what the relationship used to be.
  • A loss of freedom. If care has taken over much of your life, you may grieve the life you used to have.
  • The loss of a future. If you’re caring for a loved one that you expected to live longer, or live differently (without a debilitating injury, for example) you may grieve the future that will no longer be there.
  • And so much more. We have an article here on anticipatory grief if you’re interested in learning more about this topic specifically.

Managing Caregiver Grief

Grief in all its forms can be debilitating. Here are some ways to cope with anticipatory and traditional grief:

  • Acknowledge the grief. When experiencing a loss of any kind, feelings of grief may arise. Acknowledge that grief is what you’re experiencing so that you can safely work through that emotion.
  • Allow yourself to cry. Sometimes that release of emotions is needed. It can help you work through some of the built-up pressure and clear your head.
  • Talk to someone. Whether you seek out professional help, or lean on a friend, having an outlet where you can discuss these emotions in a judgment-free way is essential. 

You are not alone in your experience, so there is no need to suffer in silence. For either caregiver grief or caregiver guilt, finding a support of caregivers who have been in your shoes can make all the difference. 

While every caregiver experience is unique, each needs and deserves support. For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to call us at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.

Can You Get Paid to Care for Your Loved One?

Becoming a caregiver is difficult and expensive–out-of-pocket annual costs average in the thousands for a family caregiver. The state of California offers several paths to receiving at least partial compensation or subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver for your parents, and click here to learn more about how to get paid to care for your spouse.

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