Right now, I am spent mentally and emotionally. Certainly, the last seven years of caregiving, two of them amid a pandemic, is to blame. But moving mom into Assisted Living and getting ready to sell our family home has highlighted those feelings in a way I did not expect.
Like many caregivers, my default mode is to soldier on. “I don’t have time to break down today, there is too much to do.” “I just can’t think about that right now or I will lose it.” “Mom is so upset, I can’t add to it.”
When we put off dealing with our emotions, we pay the price at the other end. A laser focus on finding an AL, coordinating all the moving parts for getting her moved in, getting the room set up and managing her anxiety before and after the move gave me no time to process all the changes in MY life. And I’m paying for it now.
I was recently gifted the opportunity for a caregiver retreat. It was during a one-on-one counseling session when I was getting teary eyed talking about all the changes that the social worker said to me, “As soon as you get teary and feel the emotion, you move from your heart to your head. Stay in the heart. This is where the work and healing is.”
Wow, just wow. This is hard for me. As a child my emotions were so big I would cry at the drop of a hat and can remember the quintessential message, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Here is just one example. I was not allowed to watch the TV show Lassie. That’s right, Lassie, because every Sunday about halfway through the show, I would start sobbing, afraid the dog would not make it home. I know, I know, crazy right? But here’s the thing, the ultimate message was don’t cry, don’t be a baby, be a big girl.
Anger is another one of those emotions. You did not talk back to your elders in our house. No matter how unfair or how right you felt in expressing your anger, it was not tolerated. I learned to hold it in. And you know what they say about anger, anger turned inward is depression.
Caregiving is a minefield of emotions and, unfortunately, we focus on the tasks of caregiving and not the emotional toll it takes on us. We need to carve out the time and space to feel the emotions. To stuff them away with food or retreat from our heart to our head does us no good. In fact, it harms us.
The question becomes, what messages about messy emotions did you absorb as a child? Do they still serve you as an adult? I’ve come to realize mine don’t and I can make different choices. One of my choices is to go back and watch Lassie as an adult. Will I cry? Probably. But I need to practice moving out of my head and into my heart in order to heal and get through this caregiving experience whole.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” Available in both English and Spanish, this book explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems during caregiving. Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract or here for the Spanish version: Su Contrato de relación como cuidador de un ser querido.