Have you ever had to step back from caregiving? Do you think you might in the future? Sometimes the physical, mental, and emotional strain of caregiving can become too much to handle, and you need to take that step back, either temporarily or permanently. Either way, it’s natural to experience feelings of guilt when you do.

While guilt is one of our natural emotions and reactions over a past or present situation, it serves little, if any, positive purpose for our lives. It can lead to feelings of shame, inferiority, and sometimes bring about the onset of depression.

Unresolved guilt can be debilitating if it’s not dealt with, which is the purpose of this article. If you’re experiencing guilt from relinquishing your caregiving duties, you just might need a different perspective. Here are five ways you can combat your guilt.

1. Recognize the Feeling of Guilt

Go ahead and name it if you’re feeling it. Say it: “I’m feeling guilty over taking a step back from caregiving.” Repressing emotions can lead to an eventual outburst or melt-down that won’t help you or anyone around you.

There’s no shame in feeling guilty; we all do from time to time. Recognize that you have the feeling, and start to release it. It’s like air in a balloon, too much, and it eventually pops, and if you want to use the balloon again, you let the air out a little at a time.

2. Be Compassionate With Yourself

You’re human. Tying yourself up in knots is only going to prolong the feelings of guilt you’re experiencing. Your self-talk at this point will have a significant effect on how and what you’re feeling. If you mentally keep shaming yourself over stepping back, you’ll get stuck in a negative loop and possibly a downward spiral.

It’s hard to do, but it will help you immensely if you think about all of the good you’ve done for your loved one as their caregiver. Dwell on the positive instead of the negative.

3. Look For the Cause of the Guilt

Was it exhaustion – physical, mental, or emotional? Was it bottled-up anger over having to assume the responsibility of family caregiver when you weren’t ready, or was it not the best season of your life to do it? Was there too much tension over the history between you and your family member?

Sometimes if you can identify the root cause of your guilt, you can deal directly with that, and the guilt will fade away. For example, if past relationship tension is what caused you to step away, clearing the air with your loved one or exploring your feelings with a family therapist might be just what you need.

4. Talk It Out

As mentioned, a qualified family therapist may help you identify where your guilt stems from and provide you with some coping techniques that will help you work through it.

Confiding with a good friend is another way to deal with feelings of guilt or just about any other emotion we’re feeling that is negatively disrupting our quality of life. Saying out loud how you’re feeling to someone you trust can be very liberating.

5. If Necessary, Change Your Behavior

Many times, stepping back from our role as caregivers can give us a fresh perspective on how we may have acted in a certain way that is causing the guilt. For example, were you prone to angry outbursts? Were you inattentive? Emotionally absent?

Guilt is often relieved when we recognize something in ourselves we don’t like, and we take action to change it. Making a commitment to change a particular behavior, and having someone hold you accountable, can be a giant step towards your healing.

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