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Guilt Trip


I’m on a guilt trip.  And it doesn’t look as though there will be an exit ramp any time soon. As our parents grow increasingly frail and dependent, guilt is a road I often travel.

If I head into a weekend too tired to make the 170-mile trek to see my 91-year-old dad, I’m regretful. When traffic tie-ups force me to abort a trip to my mother-in-law’s skilled care home 50 miles away, I’m remorseful. And if my husband gets hung up with work and can’t make it there either? No problem. I’ll feel guilty for the both of us. The guilt stops here.

I anticipated guilt raising our son. Parents seem hard-wired for it. You’re sure that any misstep will scar your child for life. You feel guilty when you’re away for a day or so, when you can’t make enough healthy meals or schedule the right number of play dates. That’s to be expected, right? You cry to your friends, wring your hands, say lots of prayers and have a glass of wine.

And then your child grows up smarter and wiser than you and, with a sigh of relief, you kiss guilt goodbye.

Not so fast.

It’s time to get back on the road for guilt, part 2. I have to admit, this latest season of guilt caught me by surprise. And just when I thought I had it all together. It sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking and whopped me up the side of the head.

I feel guilty that I haven’t nudged Dad a little harder to move closer to me. But if he did, I’m convinced I would be just as guilty for robbing him of everything he’s ever known.

On a recent Saturday, while I was taking Dad and his long-time friend on a ride in the country, I felt guilty not to be home with my husband, cleaning my house, watering my hydrangea, knocking things off my to-do list, dining with friends and family. But the minute I arrived home, I wondered if I’d left too soon, if Dad was okay or if he was lonesome.

So there you have the worst about guilt. It robs you of the present, steals your joy from the moment and keeps you distracted. At least that’s what it does to me.

And why, I wonder? My friends and family encourage me. My employer is constantly supportive. Heck, even my dad says I go above and beyond. So what’s the deal?

Part of it, I know, is the different time and place in which we live. When my father was in my shoes looking after his 91-year-old mother, he had simply to drive down the street whenever she needed anything.

Dread is another part of this journey, because I know that the time is drawing closer when we’ll say goodbye. So any minute spent apart seems to lead to guilt. Guilt that this could be the last opportunity together and I’ll miss it because I’m doing something a whole lot less important.

So for now, I’ll ride along on this guilt trip. Until I can take another kind of excursion, say, to Tahiti.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. October 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Posted by Julie N.

    I love what was written earlier... A very good reminder... Guilt robs us of joy and the present moment.... IF WE LET IT. Watch our thoughts... The mind always wants to gravitate downward. If we watch our thoughts and become more aware, we can try to live a life of happiness again. I have to remind myself of this constantly. As a 45 year old woman caring for two parents who live separately. I'm an only child and the guilt sneaks in when I spend time with one and not the other. It's a tough balance for sure!


  2. October 3, 2015 at 1:10 am | Posted by Janet

    I am almost 60 years old I have health issues. My Father has been with me for 11 years. He is 89. Sharp but emotionally dependent. Some medical issues, nothing major, but struggles with artheritis. I was caregiver for my mother, she is deceased. I have an 18 year old daughter with special needs. My husband is more of a roommate than a spouse. You want to know about guilt. I am buried so deep, I will never get out. Im burned out and feel guilty about that. By the time I get out from under I will be in his shoes. I am already feeling guilt about that.


  3. August 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Posted by Betty Luckey

    When my Mom had a major stroke the doctor said she couldn't be by herself anymore, I quit my job of 19 years, sold my house and moved in with her. I am an only child and my Dad passed away in 2000. I have watched my Mom go from a spunky working lady to one that is crippled and is losing her memory. My grandchildren make her happy when they visit. My three sons make her happy when they visit. I get down and depressed a lot of the time, but I think of she is feeling and I feel guilty for having those feelings. I know my Dad would not want me to feel this way but I can not bring myself in letting her go to an assisted living facility when I am living with her. I spent the night in the hospital a couple of weeks ago and had tests on my heart. The conclusion was" Caregiver's Stress" Is what the cardiologist called it. This is a real thing, he said. I am trying to get out of the house some while she is napping or resting. I do feel guilty for wanting to take a weekend get away. With my God beside me, I can do anything. HE is my help and strength.


    • August 15, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Posted by Georgene

      Thanks for sharing your journey. Please take care of yourself. Remember you can't take care of your mom if you are not looking out for your own health first. You've given up a lot to care for your mother. Your mom is lucky to have you!


  4. August 11, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Posted by Merrill Winter

    I think I've done an amazing job caring for my soon to be 95 year old incredible mom. I too have that sense of guilt that I don't do enough which is not the case at all. Elder care is a complex and difficult daily challenge which can easily take its toll on the caregiver. But for me its worth every struggle to care for my loving mom because tomorrow is not guaranteed.


    • August 15, 2015 at 10:21 pm | Posted by Georgene

      Thank you for such a supportive message. God bless you for the great care you have provided your mother.


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