How to Let Go of Caregiving Anger and Resentment
A common question asked in caregiving support groups is how to let go of caregiving anger and resentment. Most caregivers hesitate to admit feeling anger and resentment about caregiving. When life changes, the idea of how to let go of caregiver anger and resentment is a commonly discussed subject.
Why Do Caregivers Feel Anger and Resentment?
Caregiving is an unexpected role. The subject of caregiving is rarely discussed before a family member becomes a caregiver. As a society, we delay talking about subjects that relate to health or later years in life when needing care becomes a reality.
Like any unexpected situation, persons involved may feel that the event that leads to being a caregiver is not fair. We’ve all heard the statement “life isn’t fair.”
Caregivers feel that being a caregiver including the time commitments and changes to their lives isn’t fair. This feeling of discord results in caregivers feeling anger and resentment. These are all normal and valid feelings related to being a caregiver. It’s not a role we choose. Caregiving is a role that chooses us.
Changes in Relationships Lead to Resentment
When caregiving becomes a role and responsibility, family, and marital relationships change. Adult children who were thrown into the role of a caregiver feel conflicted about accepting new responsibilities that are time-consuming.
When caregiving transitions to the stage where one is caring for a person with illnesses that require heightened attention, burnout, stress, anger, and resentment result. Medical conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease, COPD, arthritis, or mental illness pose a need for ongoing management of daily care. Many caregivers feel powerless when the health of loved ones continues to decline, and more time must be devoted to caring.
Marital Relationships Change from Being A Couple to Being A Caregiver
Spouses who become caregivers mourn the prior relationship of being a couple. When one spouse encounters health changes, the healthier spouse moves into the role of a caregiver. As time passes, the healthy spouse may feel more like a caregiver than a husband or wife.
Daily tasks consume time that was once spent in pleasurable activities of being a couple. Anger and resentment of the change in health or the disease that robs married couples of their retirement dreams can become an everyday feeling.
Balance in Caregiving Is Lost
When a loss of balance is experienced by the caregiver, anger, and resentment occur. Caregivers feel at a loss of how to let go of these feelings so that they can continue to be a caregiver minus feelings of anger and resentment.
When caregiving is a need, the caregiver appears. Whether this is a single adult child or a spouse. Caregiving roles and responsibilities are accepted even though the caregiver may feel angry or resentful.
Anger is felt when others who the caregiver believes could be helping, do not offer to help. Daily life becomes imbalanced with caregiving tasks growing to equal the hours spent at work. Caregiving can feel like a 24/7, full-time job for the caregiver.
Time for personal activities becomes lost in favor of the caregiver feeling like he or she has too much to do. Friends are lost because the life transition of becoming a caregiver pulls apart the glue of common interests that built and held the friendship together.
Ideas About What Caregiving Should Be
Each caregiver has a different idea about what caregiving should be. The adult child or spouse who steps in to be the caregiver has thoughts about the role and responsibility of being a caregiver. Thoughts of how to let go of anger and resentment differ from person to person.
This idea about what caregiving should be is one of the reasons that conflict results in family relationships. We all have ideas about the way that things “should be.” How people “should” treat us and how the world “should” work.
When the primary caregiver appears to take over the situation and have everything under control, family members watching on the outside hesitate to become involved for fear of being judged or told how they should act as a caregiver. Help is rarely offered because the caregiver rarely asks for help.
Who Knew That Caregiving Had a Job Description
Over time, the main caregiver creates the illusion of an efficient and perfect outside caregiving situation. What is needed, what tasks should be done and when the tasks should happen. There is an expectation of anyone who helps that these systems and processes “should” be followed.
These expectations drive wedges between caregiving families. Rather than asking for help, the caregiver says nothing. Days, weeks, and months go by where the caregiver is seething in anger and resentment because other family members have gone on with their lives.
It’s as if the caregiver wants to be recognized for all of the effort and self-sacrifice, and no one is taking notice. Because caregiving begins unexpectedly, few conversations occur at the start about how family members might become involved.
The lack of early conversations have caregivers wondering how to let go of anger and resentment. Caregivers hold onto every difficulty that eventually turns into negative thinking and drives away others who might have been helpful.
Caregivers Can Hold Onto the Past
Because caregiving can feel like a solitary job, caregivers contract the past with the present. When looking at a life that was relatively free to a life that is now scheduled with caregiving responsibilities, a huge gap appears.
Caregivers become jealous of family members who have their lives and are unaffected by caregiving. The caregiver fails to realize that the choice to be a caregiver and choosing all of the related responsibilities were self-imposed.
We do caregiving to ourselves. No one makes us become a caregiver. We caregive out of love until love is no longer sufficient to carry us through the challenging days. It is then that we must ask how to let go of the anger and resentment that we have created.
Letting Go of ControlFeels Scary
Each caregiver has to decide the best way to let go of anger and resentment. For some, prayer is the answer. For others finding time alone away from the caregiving situations is helpful.
Caregivers often become isolated and feel alone as if there is no hope, and there are no solutions. Feeling hopeless and helpless is valid but is not a solution to caregiver anger and resentment.
Admitting that help is needed and asking for help is a path forward. Asking for help from family members may feel like an impossible step when others were shut out because the caregiver had expectations of how they should act and the ways in which they should help.
By becoming more flexible and open-minded, and less focused on perfection as defined by the caregiver, opportunities to receive help become more apparent.
Getting Through The Day
Instead of thinking, “I hate being a caregiver” and turning this hatred into anger and resentment, the idea of being present and taking life one day at a time can be helpful. Instead of saying I hate doing this task, focus on doing the task.
Focus on each step of the task to see if there are ways to make it easier or to be more efficient. By focusing on the details of a task, the mind stops focusing on the idea of “I hate being a caregiver.”
Training our minds to think differently. Focusing on the next steps and solutions is a way out of hatred and resentment about being a caregiver. Having a strong desire to change a situation plus having a concrete plan with sequential steps is the path to letting go of hatred, anger, and resentment.
We create our caregiving situations. Only we can change them. Caregiving support groups and courses offer a path forward. Being with other caregivers confirms that not a single caregiver—but multiple caregivers—are wondering how to let go of anger and resentment.
© 2019 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.