Childhood Answers

Why do I struggle so badly with taking care of a dying relative?

Hi Jean, Honoring and acknowledging the feelings and parts of yourself that are protective is an important part of our being emotionally healthy. It is much like receiving validation when we witness something or do something that we later have acknowledged and "Witnessed" by another human. In this case, it sounds like the wounded part of yourself recognizes, based on your experience, that your grandmother was not a good person to you and this "Part" is trying to make sure you are reminded of that. So, that part of you that is hanging onto those feelings is perhaps waiting for that validation and that recognition that your grandmother did leave wounds. I would suggest an exercise to recognize and remind yourself (actually speaking to that protective part of yourself), that you are going to be okay and that she can no longer cause harm to you. You can do this by writing a letter from your older self to your younger self, so that the part of you that is sending signals to be careful, be aware, can stop having to waive that warning flag so much. You can let that protector part of yourself know that you are well aware of what is going on now and that your grandmother will not be on this earth much longer. At the same time, you can choose whether or not you want to continue the visits with her. Can you bring someone with you that knows the history? Is it possible to have a genuine conversation with your grandmother so that perhaps she can free herself of guilt, if she is in that space; and that you can speak the truth to her. It is not uncommon to be able to have such frank conversations at the end of life stage if the person is fully cogent. We do walk gently here to recognize that she is now the vulnerable one, at least physically, and to walk that path carefully to not cause harm to her or yourself. Breaking the cycle of abuse is a tight walk and it sounds like you are trying to do that, but need to acknowledge to your protective part of yourself that you are up for the task.  It sounds like there are some anticipatory, complicated feelings of grief, which can include apathy, anger, regret, guilt and a potpourri of emotions. This might also occur after she passes. Think of how you can navigate this in a way that you can honor yourself and the emotion you still hold in reference to your grandmother, and at the end of her life, feel good about how you walked that walk. If not already, you may want to consider working with a professional through that process. Be gentle with yourself, Judea
Answered on 10/22/2022

How does someone overcome guilt and letting go?

Good afternoon and thank you for your inquiry.  It sounds like you have been through a lot with your father, which has led to a very complicated relationship, to say the least.  I am glad that you are reaching out now to help yourself heal and to move forward.  Have you ever sought counseling before?  While you didn't go into detail about your childhood experience, it sounds like there is a lot that needs to be processed first and foremost.  True, it might bring up some very raw and painful emotions, but will be an integral part of your healing journey.  Every therapist has their own unique process when working with clients and from what you wrote, it sounds like a lot of the work to address your goal of overcoming your guilt and letting go will not only focus on working through the experiences that you went through, but also providing you with tools to be better equipped to cope with the relationship you have with your father.  Having someone in your life who is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder as well as substance abuse issues takes a huge toll on not only their own lives, but also the lives of the people with whom they are close.  In addition to giving you the space to process everything, there are also some valuable tools you can learn when interacting with someone who has mental health and substance abuse issues.  Psychoeducation - can really help you better understand any mental health condition, which I think can be crucial for you on your journey.  This, coupled with learning strategies that you can employ to help the situation not feel as "mentally draining" will be key.  This could be where learning different mindfulness techniques and working to change your thought process could be very beneficial.  Both of which could be explored more in-depth with your therapist.  As I insinuated earlier, it is important to note that all therapists have their own orientation and could teach you other tools that are equally as beneficial.  To give you an idea, the website has some really good resources that I would recommend taking a look at.   The other thing to really focus on is what does your support system look like?  It can feel very lonely when you don't have people to whom you can turn.  In addition to friends and family, have you ever tried any support groups, like Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families? - I'm sure there are others too out there.  To summarize, in seeing that you feel stuck in finding the time to get the help, I think that the BetterHelp platform is a good starting point for you.  Online therapy does make the first step of "showing up" easier.  There is also no set timeline for when you can say "okay, I've let go and don't feel guilty anymore" and I think it is important to keep in mind while on this journey so as to not get discouraged if it doesn't seem like it's happening fast enough.  Good luck and I hope you're able to find the support that you are looking for.   
Answered on 06/01/2022