Ten Things Caregivers Can Forgive

Apr 13, 2021

A Caregiver's World

Most people never anticipate becoming a caregiver. When our fourth-grade teachers ask us what we want to be when we grow up, NO ONE says, "I want to be a caregiver."
 
But here we are, with our world turned upside-down.
 
In surveys I've done over the years, the following are reported most frequently by caregivers—women and men—caring for grandparents, parents, spouses, siblings, dependent children, and even friends.
 
  • Overwhelm
  • Fatigue
  • Worry
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Irritation
  • Loneliness
  • Physical pain
  • Depression
 
Thirty percent of caregivers will die before the loved one they're caring for. This statistic is noteworthy even for elderly caregivers of spouses because the person caring for the other was initially the healthier partner.
 
If we survive, we will likely have developed health problems related to caring for someone before our responsibilities end.
 
We might avoid these challenges with excellent self-care, but caregivers typically scoff at this idea, saying, "when do I find time for ME?"
 
Even if you aren't a caregiver, you've probably heard the worn-out admonition to put your airbag on first; care for your own needs, or you won't be fit to care for someone else.
 

Advice From Hell

 
Along with this advice, doled out by well-meaning people, comes the unsolicited platitudes that, again, lovingly said, may grate us the wrong way.
Advice about adding one more thing to our already bogged-down day, like taking a bubble bath, attending a yoga class, or journaling, usually falls on tired ears.
 
We'd rather take a nap—if we could only fall asleep.
 
The following is a list of things you might think twice about before gracing your caregiver friends with them.
 
1. You're so strong.
I hate being told I'm anything remarkable. It makes me want to cry. I don't feel strong or brave. Sometimes, I'm mean and angry; my patience wears thin, and I just want to crawl into a hole and disappear.
 
2. I can't imagine being in your shoes.
I want to warn people, "Start imagining, honey; you'll probably get your chance to either be a caregiver or be care given.” 
 
3. Let me know if there's anything I can do.
These are the nine most useless words on Earth. It never happens. No one knows what a potential do-gooder can or is willing to do, and the well-meaning offer goes un-taken-up.
 
4. He's lucky to have you.
I used to think, he's lucky he has anyone; he'd be luckier if the Good Lord would take him home and put him out of both of our misery. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I meant it when I thought it.
 
5. There's a reason for everything.
I don't think this is true. I believe God allows nature to happen to ensure our freedom of choice. But I don't believe every iota of suffering is for a specific reason.
 
6. What doesn't kill you will make you stronger.
This philosophy is dumb. Lots of caregiving exploits that haven't killed me have made me much weaker. I had to fight and claw my way back to health, and I never surpassed my prior fitness level. I do believe that my challenges have built resilience, courage, and love. And for that, I’m grateful.
 
7. You're an angel.
I am no angel. I don't have a unique in with God, I can't do miracles, and some of the time, I'm not even nice.
 
8. Why don't your kids (church, parents, siblings, etc.) help out?
This question is the worst! Caregivers feel like they're being criticized for not being good parents, assertive neighbors, cherished children, or valued siblings. Typically, they're already asking themselves why no one is helping and possibly judging themselves.
 
9. You need to get out more.
Aaaannnddd. . . who’s going to take care of __________? Are YOU offering?
 
10. Remember to take time for yourself.
When?
 

Heavenly Support

 
It's easy to find fault in the things kind people who don't understand say.
 
The trick is admitting that people who say these things don't mean any harm. They can't understand, and they're worthy of a decent response.
 
It's ridiculous to think our lives are any more challenging than anyone else's. They're different, but everyone faces trials they don't feel capable of handling. 
 
As caregivers, we can be forgiving, especially when no offense was intended. 
 
Maybe you can think of how to graciously respond and perhaps help your friends understand a little better.
 
If you end up having a conversation, share what you feel you can. Not only will you have a stronger connection with your friend because of your vulnerability, but she'll also probably be in your shoes eventually. 
 
1. You're so strong.
Yeah, but I'm weak, too. Sometimes I think I can't go on. Have you ever felt that way?
 
2. I can't imagine being in your shoes.
No one could be in my shoes. I couldn't ever be in yours, either. How are you doing?
 
3. Let me know if there's anything I can do.
I have a list; would you like to choose something? I'd love some help.
 
4. He's lucky to have you.
We're lucky we have each other, but half of the time, we can't stand each other. Do you ever feel that way about your partner?
 
5. There's a reason for everything.
I don’t see any sense in our struggles right now. Do you see a purpose for __________________(whatever is happening for them.)?
 
6. What doesn't kill you will make you stronger.
I don't feel stronger. I'm tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel like I'm running in circles. Do you ever feel that way?
 
7. You're an angel.
They forgot to give me a halo and wings. I'm floundering around just like the rest of humanity. I feel like I must have a guardian angel, though. Sometimes I wonder how I got through the day. Do you have days like that?
 
8. Why don't your kids (church, parents, siblings, etc.) help out?
I guess I haven't given them something specific to do. My (kids, church members, parents, siblings, etc.) know it's hard taking care of _____________, but maybe they're afraid of making a mistake. How do you think I could go about getting more help?
 
9. You need to get out more.
I know, right? Can you help me think of someone to spell me, and maybe even ask them for me? I'm nervous about asking. What would I do? Do you want to get together for lunch or something?
 
10. Remember to take time for yourself.
When? Any ideas?
 
Although these responses may seem awkward, they feel that way because most of us try to mask our pain. We think it's noble to suffer in silence and "be positive."
 
It's no wonder people say things like, "You're so brave." That's the face we often present.
 
Real Love
 
I've been humbled many times over the years by thoughtful and generous people who have helped our family. It's not easy to accept gifts of time, money, and service, but remember, it blesses the giver.
 
And the receiver.
 
People who say annoying things probably care deeply. And they’re usually capable of helping, but they’re unsure how to ask specifically how to help.
They want to be encouraging but don’t know how you feel unless you TELL THEM.
 
Be your best friend and kind to others. Tell them how you feel, what you think and believe about your needs, and how you’re doing. Be HONEST. Don’t hide.
 
The reason people say dumb things is because no one has told them what TO say.
 
Use the examples above to help your friends and family be comfortable talking to you authentically instead of having to resort to glib statements that rub you the wrong way.
 
Your life is up to you. Do you want to be annoyed, or would you like an ally?

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