During my first visit with Mary, her exhaustion was visible in the slump of her shoulders and the dark circles under her eyes. Yet, when I gently asked about her well-being, she deflected with a quick, “I’m fine, really. It’s Mom I’m worried about.”

It’s a response I’ve heard countless times. Caregivers, especially those caring for parents, are masters of minimizing their own struggles. Admitting to feelings like resentment, guilt, or a deep jealousy of those whose lives haven’t been turned upside down by illness feels like a betrayal. But these emotions are as real and valid as the love that drives them.

I knew Mary needed more than just practical help to manage her mother’s care. She needed permission to feel the full spectrum of what she was going through. So, we talked about the things that often remain unspoken:

Jealousy: Seeing friends enjoy carefree lives while yours has become a whirlwind of medication schedules and difficult conversations can bring a wave of despair and a ‘why me?’ bitterness.

Resentment: Even the most devoted caregivers can reach a point where their mother’s uncooperativeness or the simple repetition of tasks ignites a spark of anger. It’s normal, but the guilt it brings complicates everything.

Grief: Caregiving is an ongoing process of mourning – for lost abilities, the relationship as it was, and the life you envisioned for yourself and your loved one.

Acknowledging these feelings doesn’t make Mary a bad daughter. It makes her human. My job wasn’t to judge, but to create a safe space for that emotional honesty. Once that unspoken weight is lifted, we can start to work towards solutions, both practical and personal.

Over time we talked about:

● The power of respite: Whether it’s in-home help a few hours a week or exploring adult day programs, giving Mary time to simply be herself is crucial – not a luxury, a necessity.

● Finding support: Connecting with other caregivers, whether in a support group or online, can break the cycle of isolation. Knowing you’re not alone can be extremely powerful.

● Self-compassion strategies: Mindfulness exercises, journaling, even just taking a few minutes each day for quiet – these small acts can help manage the emotional overload.

Caring for a loved one is an act of incredible love. But love doesn’t make you superhuman. Seeking help, both practical and emotional, is a sign of strength, and the key to preserving the love that matters most amidst the relentless challenges of caregiving.

If you are struggling to adapt to your role as caregiver, know that you are not alone. We have worked with hundreds of family members who were, with the very best of intentions, taking on too much. They weren’t prepared for the feelings of resentment and loss and anger that comes along with caring for a loved one, and it took time to learn ways to cope. You deserve support just like your care receiver; call to learn more about a few ways I can help.