Guilt, can't go to ailing mom

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Pennygirl2, Nov 7, 2006.

  1. Pennygirl2

    Pennygirl2 New Member

    Help, I wonder if any of you have any suggestions or views about appropriate and inappropriate guilt. I am in Colorado and mom is in Atlanta. A very long trip. She is 86, some altzheimers and haven't seen her in 4 years when she had a heart attack. I got so sick then that we drove 4 days, stayed 2, and drove 4 to get back.

    Anyway, she fell last week and broke her hip and was in hospital and now in a Care home for month or more and then will have to go to Assisted Living place. She "think" she will be going home. Since I am sick and here, my brother has to take care of everything.

    The plane trip is just too hard, too long, and I have too many chemical sensitivities.

    So I have guilt that he has to do everything, that I am not there now and well, she is pretty frail--won't be able to go for funeral. How do I handle this guilt?????? Thanks for all advice. Penny
  2. hugs4evry1

    hugs4evry1 New Member

    The only way to handle the guilt is by acceptance....

    You need to accept your illness as being valid. You need to accept that you are doing the best that you can every single day.

    And you just need to accept what you can not control. There's a reason for everything, we just don't always know what it is at the time.

    Can you tell I've been there? Sept 05 my Mom was in the hospital for 3 weeks and I was too sick to go back and see her one more time before she died.....

    It happens, guilt serves no purpose whatsoever.


    Nancy B
  3. jaltair

    jaltair New Member

    (From: Psychotherapy with Birgit Wolz PhD, MFT in Oakland -

    Guilt can be seen as the price we pay when our behavior violates some standard or belief we hold. As long as our behavior is violating this standard, guilt will follow.

    Very often, our standards are not very clear in our consciousness and we question our behavior only in response to feelings of guilt and shame. Therefore, we might not be aware that our standards are unrealistically high. If we consciously observed our behavior or put ourselves into the role of a compassionate friend we might not apply the same high standards. We may come from a family that encouraged us to feel overly responsible through blaming or finding fault whenever things went wrong. Super-responsibility may have been seen as an asset as we grew up. The down side is that throughout life, even a trivial infraction noticed by some authority figure (parents, teachers, employers, etc.) instilled in us a sense of failure, guilt, and diminished self-worth. We developed an "Inner Critic" to protect ourselves by forestalling external criticism. Whenever our behavior now violates a certain standard, we sink into a low state and feel guilty and worthless, instead of revising this standard or using our guilt experience for learning and improvement.

    Another cause of guilt seems to have its origin in the "magical thinking" of early childhood. As infants we learn that when we have a need (for clean diapers, food, etc.), all we have to do is make a sound, and someone comes to fill our need. Therefore, we learn to believe in our own power, growing out of the reality that we are the "center of the universe". This belief continues until our intellectual level (age six to nine) allows us to start understanding other cause and effect relationships in the world. We learn that we are not the cause, and therefore responsible, for everything that happens. But some of us may have kept a certain remnant of magical thinking, like for example "to expect anything good will only bring bad", and vice versa. Even under the best circumstances most of us retain a bit of magical thinking that contributes to a sense of guilt, especially in response to a profound loss. "What did I do to cause this?" "What could I have done to prevent this?" These are reasonable questions for adults to be asking about their effect on the world. Whether or not they torment us and undermine our sense of worth may depend upon the degree of "magical thinking" we retain from our childhood

    Another cause of guilt is also connected with an "illusion of control". We would rather believe that certain events in our life are a result of our wrongdoing than that they are caused by inevitable circumstances. The price we pay for this belief that we are in control is guilt.

    Unconscious Guilt

    Unconscious guilt is the most difficult to deal with because we are not directly aware that we feel guilty. We may notice it indirectly when we feel defensive as we talk about something we have done. Projection is another way unconscious guilt can manifest itself. We project when we blame someone else for something that is related to our own action.

    Unconscious guilt may lead to destructive behavior such as alcoholism or working until we drop, etc. These behaviors are a way of unconsciously saying, "I am guilty; therefore, I am unworthy and should be punished".

    Conquering Guilt

    There is no need to suffer from unreasonable or even reasonable guilt. The following tools will help you conquer your guilt:

    You first need to be fully aware that you feel guilty and recognize how you might act out unconscious guilt.

    Then you need to identify, as clearly as possible, just what it is you believe you feel guilty of.

    The next step is to ask yourself if your guilt is logical or not. This gives you a different perspective from which to view your actions. Ask yourself: "With the information and resources I had, did I do the best I could?" These kinds of questions may appear ridiculous with their obvious answer but they help you look at your guilt in a true light. Many times, when we say our guilt out loud or write them down, we can hear or see the illogic of them.

    Ask yourself, "what was my intention when I made the decision or action I feel guilty about?"

    Examine your standards when they conflict with your behavior. Look back at the behavior you feel guilty about from the perspective of a compassionate, non-judgmental friend. Then see whether you would apply the same standards as before.
    It might also be helpful to evaluate whether you may be carrying guilt or shame from your childhood that distorts your perspective now. If your standards seem too high, you need to tell your "Inner Critic" to back off and lower these standards.

    If you are afraid to lower your standards of behavior, you need to weigh out the pros and cons by asking yourself in each situation, "What do I stand to gain or lose if I lower them?"

    If your standards seem clearly appropriate, you need to acknowledge that your guilt was reasonable. Now you can use your experience for learning and improving your behavior.

    Sometimes, the only answer is to ask for forgiveness from a person or from God. This helps you to forgive yourself.

    With meditation or engaging in a spiritual activity, you can learn to use the power of presence to create an inner atmosphere of acceptance.

    It takes time to resolve guilt. You may have to go through these steps over and over again.
  4. Abbycat

    Abbycat New Member

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. And sorry that you feel so bad physically that you can't do what you wish you could. The fact that you feel guilty means that you care very much for your mother and your brother.

    Have you talked to your brother about this? Is he understanding? Or is he giving you a guilt trip? The reason I ask is because it's important to know where the guilt is coming from.

    Mostly I thing guilt is internal. We tell ourselves we should be doing this and that. Or we compare and say he is doing more than I am and I should do more.

    Well, sometimes you just can't do more. I have found that the people who feel the most guilty about something are the same people who are the most forgiving when someone else is in the same situation. You need to be able to forgive yourself the same way you forgive other people.

    When my mother was dying of cancer, my sister and I virtually lived at her house, doing shifts for eight months. My other sister lives in Seattle and coming to Chicago was impossible. We took care of everything and she felt guilty. We told her that we loved her very much and that she just needed to get over it.

    Near the end, I became unable to deal with the inevitable and built a wall of denial. I couldn't deal with any of it and my dear sister dragged me through the whole thing, but she pretty much did it all.

    I felt terrible guilt over that. I just couldn't do anything I was "supposed" to do. There were some things I could do, even though I was paralized by grief.

    I called the relatives. Wrote the thank you cards. And after it was over I thanked my sister for all that she had done. I told her how much I admired her ability to organize everything and take care of every little detail, especially since she had no help at all. I'm talking, hospitilazation, nursing home transferral, home car nurses, medications, funeral arrangements, estate sale and on and on. The guilt was killing me and I told her so.

    The surprise happened when she told me that even though the whole process was horrible, she enjoyed being able to be more competent than her older sisters. She got to "prove" herself to us although she didn't need to in our eyes. And she did a masterful job.

    And my major point is here. Aren't you glad we're finally getting to it? He, he. Real guilt is when you've done something that you know is wrong and you want forgiveness for it. To make yourself feel better. It's a selfish thing.

    There is also the guilt that you haven't done something. You can apologize or thank, you are still looking for forgiveness. And it is still all about you.

    What if you took your guilty feelings and turned it outward. Instead of spending all your energy on feeling guilty put the energy into the people you feel guilty about.

    No, you cannot fly anywhere, but you can support your brother by talking with him on the phone and tell him how much you appreciate all that he is doing. You can listen to all the details of what is going on and tell him what a wonderful job he is doing.

    You can talk to your mom on the phone and tell her you love her. With Alzheimer's you never know what you're going to get. It can be very upsetting, but my experience working in a nursing home has shown me that calls from kids are very calming to them. Maybe not so calming to the kids.

    Doing these few things may not seem like you're doing much, but they are huge. Find the things you can do.

  5. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    Penny, I'm sorry to hear about your mom. Knowing she's ill is hard in itself without feeling guilty about not being with her.

    Is she able to talk on the phone and understand what is being said to her? How about some regular phone calls to her? Even this will sap your strength but it may help your guilt. I also wonder if you could be creative about this. If you really feel you need to be there (and no one can answer this but you), perhaps your husband could drive you. You could stop as needed and rest in the back seat of the car. Maybe make it a pleasant journey for the two of you. There's nothing better than doing the things we feel we should do for those we love.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I hope you can somehow clear the load of normal emotions away long enough to make a decision that you can be comfortable with long term.

    Good luck! Shoot, luck has nothing to do with it; have a miracle!

  6. Seeseaisme

    Seeseaisme New Member

    So sorry about your mom's illnesses. I know that's hard for you. You have to take care of yourself first. With all of your problems, alone, this is a big task in itself.

    Your brother is taking care of things with your Mom. Call him and let him know how much you appreciate him.

    Maybe you can arrange a time to talk to your Mom on the phone when your brother is with her so he can try to help explain the conversation to her, since she has altzheimers.

    You say you won't be able to go to her funeral, when that time comes. I like the poster that says you can have a memorial for her, where you are.

    That's a lovely idea. Try to think positive and remember the good things about your mom. Maybe you can put a "happy" scrapbook together as a tribute to your mom and brother's help, if you have photos or memorandoms.

    I'll say a prayer for you and I hope you get relief from the guilt you are feeling.

  7. Goldyfm

    Goldyfm New Member

    Penny, I felt I had to respond as I was in the same situation earlier this year. I had a terrible lower back pain that felt as if knives were being shoved into my spine. It hurt to breathe and any movement was excrutiating. My mother was hospitalized at the time this happened to me. I was only able to see her twice in the weeks she was sick. She ultimately lost her fight and I was unable to attend her funeral. I know that it was important for me to realize that there was nothing I could do to remedy her health situation. I know that I was looking to take care of myself as there was nothing I could do in the future for anyone that I care deeply for if I was to compromise my own health. I know it may sound cold to some that I did not go but those of us here all understand the pain we deal with on a daily basis. Try to remember that your health is just as important now as others you may love in your lifetime. Take it easy on yourself, you deserve no less.

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