Caregiving and the Holidays: The Stress is Real

file000607270521Please tell me I’m not the only one who blew up at their family yesterday – over nothing.

I was cranky in the morning so my husband tried to do the right thing. He walked over to me and gave me a hug. After twenty-something years of marriage, I finally have him trained. But then he asked me what was bothering me I told him I didn’t know. Because there was nothing wrong on the surface. I wasn’t cooking. I wasn’t hosting. My kids were okay. My father was okay. I took a nice long walk to start the day.

And then he asked again, “What’s really bothering you?” And that’s when I really blew up. Sometimes, what’s bothering us lies beneath. There’s nothing officially wrong. Nothing that can be fixed. And often, it’s nothing that can be articulated.

Low-grade stress. That’s what was bothering me. The kind of low-grade stress that comes with caregiving. Not the crisis-based caregiving when one of your parents is sick, the hidden kind that comes with longer term caregiving.

I was worried about taking my 89-year old father to Thanksgiving dinner. Worried he wouldn’t be ready when we went to pick him up. Worried he would have an incident while we’re out. Worried he wouldn’t be able to hear and join the conversation. Worried he might fall.

When that low-grade worry mixes with the realization and weightiness that you are solely responsible for another adult’s ability to get out and socialize and spend time with family, it starts to bubble. And if you start to think that the holidays might be easier without your caregiving duties, you feel guilty. Because you know what that would mean and you don’t want that to happen. And when you add guilt to the mix, that’s when things erupt.

And so nothing is really wrong, but sometimes you just blow up. Or maybe it’s just me?

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12 comments on “Caregiving and the Holidays: The Stress is Real”

  1. Patty Chang Anker Reply

    This brought tears to my eyes – it’s definitely not just you,; I think of all the caregivers of adult disabled children or spouses or aging parents and there is no deeper love and no greater exhaustion. Take good care.

    • admin Reply

      Thanks Patty. I know it’s not just me. I think it’s helpful when we all talk about it.

  2. 1010ParkPlace Reply

    What you’re feeling is perfectly normal, so DO NOT beat yourself up about this. Being a caregiver is hard work, physically and emotionally, so I wouldn’t call it a low-grade worry. My mother had dementia, and often I had those same feelings. Taking her somewhere was like waiting for a time bomb to go off, even though sometimes, nothing happened. I finally got to the point where it was easier on her and me, if I didn’t take her to lunch, etc. No guilt, okay? You’re human, and you’re in a very stressful situation. Brenda

  3. Lynne Reply

    I always say, you have to let a little pressure out of the valve so you don’t full-on explode. I think most of us can understand! Don’t feel guilty! I erupted yesterday, dropping the F-bomb two times in front of my mother and 18-year-old daughter. Why? We were coming back from the doctor. Daughter being checked for whiplash after getting plowed into Tuesday. Mom has literally twisted her knee and using a cane. Here I am caring for both, and a car runs a red light, almost hitting us. I erupted. I felt guilty but better at the same time. Hugs to you!

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