Overcoming Caregiver Guilt

Letters from Madelyn – Chapter 18
“Anniversary Generates Feelings of Caregiver Guilt”

Caregiver's Second HoneymoonOn my parents’ 56th anniversary my mother was overcome with caregiver guilt. Their anniversary fell on a Sunday. She knew it was going there was going to e a special service that day. Several former ministers and members would be in attendance. There was going to be special music, and she knew there would probably be an anniversary cake for her and dad after the service. But on that day she just didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to get Dad ready so he could go to church with her.

The minister read a poem during the service that sent her over the edge. The author is unknown.

I’ve been told it was written by a woman who lived in a nursing home, and that it was found a few days after she died when her belongings were being removed from her room. Mom started crying during the service, and she couldn’t stop. She described the poem to me, and a few years ago a woman who attended one of my workshops said, “I have a copy of that poem!”

You might want to grab a tissue.

Look at Me
By – Unknown

What do you see, nurses, what do you see,
what are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
when you say in a loud voice,
“I do wish you’d try?”

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
and forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will
with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
as I use at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I am a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet.
Dreaming that soon a lover she’ll met.
A bride soon at twenty – my heart gives a leap
remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty-five now, I have young of my own
who need me to guide and a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,
but my man’s beside me
to see I don’t mourn.

At fifty once more babies play round me knee,
again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing young of their own, and
I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old woman and nature is cruel’; ‘tis jest
to make old age look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart
there is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this carcass a young girl still dwells,
and now and again my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
and I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years; all too few. Gone too fast,
and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes nurse, open and see,
not a crabby old woman; look closer – see ME!

A few weeks after their anniversary, my husband and I sent my parents airline tickets and we took them back to the Paradise Inn on Mt. Rainier where they spent their honeymoon. Dad’s health was going downhill fast. Once they arrived, we weren’t sure going out in the wilderness where there were limited medical facilities was a good idea.

Mom said, “If he dies – he dies! He’s been living for this trip, and nothing is going to stop us now!”

There’s so much more to the story, but this is the letter that helped me begin to understand caregiver guilt. If you need some help understanding and coping with your caregiver guilt feelings, please click on this link to the Guilt Module on my website: Caregiver Support – Coping with Caregiver Guilt

Click here to listen to “Chapter 18 – Second Honeymoon”