The Tug of the Caregiver Leash

The Tug of the Caregiver Leash is something that lasts long after you are no longer a caregiver.  While I  was caring for my mother, I would feel uncomfortable if I was away from home for more than a few hours.  In spite of having made good care arrangements, she was always on my mind and I felt guilty if I popped into a store she would like when I was on my own or had even a movie date with my husband.  Everyday at 4:00 pm I would look at my watch and realize that I needed to make her special meal as well as care for my family.

After Mom passed on to Heaven, the tug of the caregiver leash was still strong.  I was able to meet up with friends – many of whom I hadn’t seen in years.  At 4:oo pm I would feel uncomfortable and guilty – like I needed to be somewhere else.  My friends suggested a girls weekend – with an overnight at a local hotel.  My first instinct was no.  I couldn’t do that.  I couldn’t possibly spend the night away from home.  Then I remembered that Mom was gone and that I could make plans.  But then I felt guilty for making a plan to go out with  friends.  The invisible leash of caregiving takes a long time to dissolve.  The feeling of of guilt for being able to come and go, make plans, stay overnight somewhere, just have pizza for dinner,and  not filling up the plastic pill box every Sunday night take time and was very strong.
I learned that I had to give myself permission to enjoy my new found freedom and not to feel guilty for doing so. It took a good six months for the feelings to begin to diminish.  I know my mother never wanted to be a burden and that she is delighted that instead of of feeling the tug of a leash, I feel the freedom of of her angel wings.


6 thoughts on “The Tug of the Caregiver Leash”

  1. Beth: Your experience and feelings of guilt are very common among dedicated family caregivers. There are over 50 million every year who do the same thing. Giving yourself permission to enjoy your life even without your mother is a good sign that life of the living is just as important and remembering loved ones. I have been involved in the home care industry for many years, and encourage families to use professional home care agencies who understand what you are going thru. My wife and i have and are currently taking care of elderly loved ones, but recognize that we also have lives to lead and have retained the services of hospice and home care professionals. I am sure your mom appreciated everything you did as a loving daughter.
    Best Wishes,

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments Ira. It has been three years now and I truly appreciate the gift of time I had with my mother. Selective memory helps! My work as a speaker helping other caregivers keeps my mom close to me and I truly enjoy it. Take care,

  2. I so understand what you’re dealing with As a long time hospice nurse I spend a lot of time working with the caregivers, especially those who have been providing the care for a long time I try to impress upon those caregivers the importance of taking time to care for themselves So often they have wrapped their lives around caregiving and suddenly have a huge hole in their existence Most of the time it is a parent or spouse so they have not only lost a loved one, but also their “role” I thank you for your comments, and trust that in time you will resolve that change in roles

    1. Thank you for your comment Marcy. It has been three years and the tug I feel is actually a good one. Rather than guilt, I feel a strong connection to my mother – everyday. Take care. Breeda

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