…said the toy dinosaur in the movie Toy Story after he realized that Woody the Cowboy was not trying to destroy Buzz Lightyear after all! Now he had to try to help save Woody from doom.
When a family-member or close friend is under our care and something happens that we think we could have been able to avoid, we can become overwhelmed by guilt. Why weren’t we there to stop or fix it immediately?
Most of us have dealt with this on one level or another. The person who is ill often feels guilt too, seeing how their needs are affecting the care giver that they love. An example of this is when an incontinent person is embarrassed by an “accident” and the care giver feels guilty for not having been near them to get them to the bathroom in time.
So, what about these day-to-day things that happen that we “should” have been there to prevent?
Tim and I have had “louder-than-usual” conversations. Whether they be about a bad day or things going on in the news, or an argument, it sounds all the same to our son. He becomes stressed and we regret having raised our voices as we then begin to worry whether he will have a seizure. If he does, it is completely our faults. We do not consider whether the seizure would have occurred anyway.
On one occasion, it was another long day when I was home alone with our son. I decided to wash a few dishes and fold a bit of laundry. This gave our son a nice window of time to have a seizure. The guilt I felt for getting up to do something slightly physical is still with me. As I brought the laundry to his room, he was lying face-down on the floor and I saw some blood on the rug. How could I have let chores be more important than being able to hear him when I was alone with him in the house?
Ah, care giving. The art of feeling guilty for fulfilling ordinary duties when extraordinary demands are waiting to overwhelm you.