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Feeling Overly Responsible For Our Loved Ones

This week I had a huge confrontation with my mother which lasted a few hours. Both of us were terribly upset. Fortunately, the next day, we were able to communicate what we were really feeling and able to resolve our issues in a loving way. Both of us took responsibility for our actions as well as our reactions. The truth is we both wanted the same things for each other, but were having difficulties in expressing these needs.

Not all of us can do this with our loved ones, nor may the opportunity even present itself.

I know that many of you who are caring for a parent, in particular can relate to this since many of our parents are in their 70's or 80's and it appears to be almost a generational belief. Our parents say that they don't want to be a burden to us. However, their actions which may stem from their beliefs and neediness appear to enroll us just the same as their caregiver.

As a caregiver, it is important to get in touch with a major issue which is how much responsibility do your feel for your loved one and how much is too much. This is especially important when a loved one is terminal, or their illness is long term with deterioration, slowly taking over them.

For example: As my father was nearing his final days, my mother became critically ill from being overburdened as his primary caregiver. After his passing, she fell needlessly, breaking her wrist which required several surgeries, and suffering a concussion. Having not fully recovered from her illness when dad was in his final days, her healing process from this accident was critical, requiring constant care for several months. In the past four years she has been critically ill about five times, requiring 24 hour care seven days a week or months at a time.

Was my brother there to help her? No. Were her brother and sisters there to help her? No. Who was there? Me. And believe me, there were times that I didn't want to be either. But being there was I conscious choice I made. I am sure many of you can relate to this.

In the interim, I was fortunate enough to be able to have my mother participate in psychotherapy sessions with me.(I had been getting one on one counseling all along.) Therapy helped us grow together in a way that we had never experienced in all our years. The love and bonding is something that never had existed prior to this time frame. I had always loved my mother, understanding that she was dealing with her own upbringing, conditioning and patterns as well. I was always in forgiveness for the past and present in the moment loving her very much.

However, some where inside me, I began to take on such responsibility for her life. I was her parent in many instances making major decisions, when she couldn't, handling finances , arranging for aids,and much more.

Finally, she is able to function on her own. She lives alone, is growing and healing in many ways. So what is it that keeps me still feeling responsible for my mother?

As a result of the confrontation, we both came in touch with the following. My mother was feeling strong enough to live her own life once again, without me directing her. She also wanted me to move forward in my own life with business and socializing. Likewise, I having been working very hard in my business as well as in going out more often. We have agreed to talk less on the phone and spend less time with each other, so that we could explore once again on our own. It feels right for both of us.

I posed the question "So what is it that keeps me still feeling responsible for my mother?". I have not answered it because this is your journal exercise for this week. What is it that makes you feel so overly responsible? How did this feeling of being responsible build up? Is your loved one capable of handling certain things on their own? Are you permitting them to be as independent as they are truly capable of and as they would like you to or have you taken over? When your loved one is verbally demanding, stubborn about letting someone else come into relieve you of the burden, how do you feel? How do you think you can begin to set some boundaries between you and your loved one? How can you feel less responsible ? How can you feel less guilty? Is what you are doing really what your loved one would want?

This is going to be very different for each of you. Take some quiet time before writing, to still your mind. Ask for guidance or direction before your begin writing. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone, even though it might appear to be that you are, in your particular situation. God, or that higher power is guiding us and with us.

Detail as much as you can. See where you are stuck when answering some of these questions. Imagine what it would be like not being so responsible. See where you can lesson your own burden.

I know there might be a lot of resistance to this exercise, but one tends to blame the parent rather than look inward to where the feelings are really coming from.

Be nurturing to yourself. Bless you in all you are doing.

©Copyright Gail R. Mitchell 4/15/99


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