Mental Health

How to Deal With the Guilt of Not Taking Care of Your Parents in Their Old Age

One of the essential parts of being a parent is making sacrifices for your kids. Sometimes, these sacrifices are as tiny and symbolic as giving them the last piece of chocolate. But more often than not, they’re far bigger.

As we grow up, we begin to see the importance of everything our parents have given to us, and it’s only natural that we want to repay at least a part of it.

However, it’s not always easy to be physically present and actively engaged in your parents’ lives when you have your career, children, and other things you need to take care of. This causes many adults to feel guilty for not being able to return the favor.

Read on to help yourself find relief if you’re struggling to cope with this all-too-common issue.

Be aware of your feelings

Unfortunately, most of us often try to bury the unpleasant feelings – until they find a way to creep back to us and crawl under our skin.

This prevents us from facing the guilt and coping with negative emotions in a healthy way. Suddenly, we end up feeling torn, anxious, and sad, without even realizing why. The guilt is eating us from the inside and inhibiting us in our everyday lives.

Don’t allow yourself to drown in the sea of regret before even trying to get a lifebelt. Stop and think about what you’re feeling, why, and how these feelings are manifesting – regardless of how troublesome it may be.

Do your best and appreciate what you have done

In these situations, we often let our minds linger on the things we didn’t do. But what about the things we did do?

What about the things we can do?

Make a list of the things you do for your parents, regardless of how small and insignificant they may seem to you (e.g., you call them every day, you visit them once a week, you give them the emotional support they need, you take them to their regular doctor checkups).

Now make a list of the other things you can do to help make their life better.

For example, if you’re concerned about their safety, you can get a medical alert system, which will enable them to immediately get help and notify you in case of injury or other emergencies. Also, you can schedule lunch with them or organize mini-adventures (e.g., weekend trips, casual hiking, etc.).

And don’t forget to give yourself credit for the things you do, because your parents are surely grateful for them.

Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary

“Should” is the beginning and the end of every guilt cycle.

It is the word stuck in our heads when we’re thinking about all the things that we did or didn’t do. We torture ourselves with this image of the perfect children and the things we should do to be like them.

But you need to be aware that everyone’s circumstances are different. There is only so much you can do with the cards you’ve been dealt.

Share the burden

Coping with these harsh feelings on your own and replaying the “guilt movie” in your head can make your suffering twice as difficult. Instead, talk things over with someone you trust – a partner, a friend, a sibling.

Furthermore, your siblings and cousins can help with taking care of your parents. You will feel better if you know someone you trust is watching over them.

If things get particularly hard, don’t forget to take care of yourself and your own emotional needs. Finding a trusted therapist to talk it over with and vent to is one of the healthiest ways of coping with these heartbreakingly complicated family matters.

Remember that your parents want you to be happy

Parents always put their kids first. They’re happy when we’re happy, and this doesn’t change as they become older and less independent. Before you sacrifice your career and the time you devote to your children, imagine how that would make them feel. They’ve invested so much for you to be where you are right now, and they don’t want you to throw it all away for them.

Finally, you need to focus on the present and the things you can control. Yes, you do need to be there for your parents, but you should also be there for yourself. You deserve to be happy and confident. The fact that you can’t accomplish everything doesn’t make you a bad person. And your parents know that because they’ve raised you.

by Sarah K

Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.

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