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When guilt and second thoughts haunt you

 

Question:  My mother passed almost two years ago. I was her primary caregiver, assisted by family members and paid staff on her return from the nursing home. She passed after a serious abdominal obstruction, life threatening surgery and two weeks in trauma care, then palliative care. I am overwhelmed by feelings of guilt as her caregiver and for the decisions made at the end (in consultation with family and staff).  Second thoughts about and ‘could have, should have, would have’ are with me daily and seem to be increasing rather than lessening. I have sought support from clergy and professionals, but have been unsuccessful in finding someone to assist in the process.

Dr. Amy: I want to reassure you that your feelings are not unusual. Really, almost to a person, I find that after a parent or someone we love dies, there is an element of guilt about we did or did not do or say— or how we managed something. It's painful.

I encourage you to look at the whole of your relationship with your mother, and all of the time you spent caring for her. Try to avoid focusing on the last few weeks of her life. My guess is that your mother knew just how much you loved her and that she was grateful for the excellent care you took of her. I also encourage you to focus on your intentions and not just the outcome. Sometimes there are messy and painful parts in life, and very often things don’t go as smoothly as we could wish. I am sure your mother knows that. Were mistakes made? Possibly. We are all human. But is it also possible that you and your family and health care staff had the best of intentions and made the best decisions you could at the time, given everything that was going on at the time and given the facts you had at your disposal?

You loved your mother, you tried your best, and over your lifetime together you were a good son. If this is true, it sounds like—despite some hard times—both you and your mother were very lucky to have each other.

I am glad that you have reached out for support as you work through your grief. I encourage you to continue for as long as it takes. There is no set formula for how long it takes to grieve. Everyone is different and unique.

I send you peace.

 

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 21, 2015 at 12:03 am | Posted by Scott Denny

    My mom had a bladder infection and when the dr. Ordered cipro the rx told me it could cause tendon damage which took my mind off her coumedin.Then I apparently did not give her enough fluids with the cipro and then diaria came and I forgot pedialyte but gave her food and coffee.my mom then went into renal failure.I.am now blamming myself in so many ways for her death.its like a fire raging around me. What can I do to relive myself of this tremendous burden.

    Reply

  2. June 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Posted by Cissy

    I have the same feelings. Momma gone eight months now. But I try to remember that so many had no family to aide in their care. So we did something right. My relationship was so strained due to dementia. And days I would be so frustrated, and short. My mom's last days in the hospital caused her death. I come to this page alot, and find comfort in other people. So knowing that others have felt the same, and we have all tried so very hard, and are human....hopefully then, comfort. God Bless you. O

    Reply

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