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Saying "No" to Guilt

The useless emotions: guilt and worry.

A phrase burned in my brain for more than 40 years, ever since I read Your Erroneous Zones, by the late, great Dr. Wayne Dyer, way before he was shot into the stratosphere of fame and fortune – and appearances on PBS.

The useless emotions: guilt and worry (specifically the Chapter 5 title of his book).

The useless emotions: guilt and worry (the bane of anyone caring for or about an elderly loved one).

In said chapter 5 of his book, Dyer makes it a point to present these two emotions as two sides of the same coin: guilt (feelings over something that already happened) and worry (feelings over something that could happen in the future).

Although I appreciate the pairing, in my world guilt is a much worse emotion than worry.

For anyone involved with the care of an elderly loved one, worry (I hate to say it) is almost a given. There is always something to worry about: Does that cough mean pneumonia? Why doesn’t she answer the phone? What is he so upset about? Where is the helper? How will I pay these bills? You simply try to address each concern as it pops up and move on.

But guilt. That’s something different. Guilt is nasty. It doesn’t just pop into your brain, sit there for a little while, then move on when you give it the boot. Guilt sets up shop in your brain – and your heart – and makes every effort to stay there unless and until you take action.

For someone taking care of an elderly loved one, there is no greater guilt than that which comes from others when you dare suggest that you….DON’T REALLY LIKE WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

“It’s a blessing that you can take care of ---.”

“Your mother gave you life – now it’s your turn to care of her.”

“Remember the bible: Honor your mother and your father.”

I just added a new title under the “My Favorite Resources” section of my website: When Our Parents Need Us Most. You can check out the listing for yourself for the full description. This book made what is intentionally my very short list of recommended resources in large part because of the “Rights and Responsibilities of the Christian Caregiver” list at the back of the book. There are 7 rights and responsibilities that make up this list. How is this for just one:

I have a right: To take care of myself. I have a responsibility: To assume my share of the care for my aging parents.

How does that sound? Works for me.

Christian guilt. Jewish guilt. Family guilt. Self-induced guilt. It doesn’t matter. Guilt is guilt. When it comes to caregiving, it’s OK to worry. But never, ever give in to guilt.

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