The Lesson I Learned About Guilt

We are who we are and we can’t be more than that. So why do we feel so guilty sometimes?

What I could have done differently

When I was helping Crystal during her treatments I used to feel guilty that I had to work. I look back, even now, and think about the things I could have done and how I could have handled it differently.

They say, "Hindsight is 20/20." I know in my case it is and I feel bad for the way things were. I wish I would have taken a leave of absence, or taken more days off, or bought her massage gift certificates, or listened more, or - well the list goes on and on.

I can’t change the way things were, but I can help other people know some of the things they can do now, because now is the most important time. When people ask me, I have lots of ideas and I think I’ve really helped others not to make the mistakes I have.

Different people means different emotions

I also feel guilty for not understanding. Everyone handles their diagnosis differently. When I heard about my cancer, I was shocked, sad, and pragmatic.

Crystal dealt with her diagnosis differently. She was more emotional. How do you deal with that when you think so differently than someone else, even if you both have a similar disease and even if the other person is your daughter? I tried to understand, but very often she needed something I couldn’t give her, because I didn’t even think to.

It's clearer looking back

Of course I look back now and it’s all so clear. I can and have compiled lists of the things I should have done. That part of our lives is over and it’s too late to change the should haves. I do try to share what I’ve learned with others.

When Crystal was done with her treatments I interviewed her for one of the articles I wrote. That was when I learned about her feelings. I wish she would have told me earlier, I wish I would have asked earlier.

She just wanted a hug

One of the things I always tell people now is to give someone a hug. Telling them what to do or how to do it doesn’t help, but listening and a quick hug will do wonders.

One of the things Crystal told me was that she really wished I would have just given her a hug and I wish that too. She appreciated the other stuff I did, which was what I thought would make her comfortable, but she said she just needed a hug sometimes. Why didn’t I think of that?

I try to keep that in mind now. There’s a saying, "Treat others the way you want to be treated," which is what I was trying to do. But that saying has been revamped a bit to say, "Treat others the way THEY want to be treated."

Ask instead of assuming

I should have asked Crystal what she needed instead of assuming. If you are caring for a loved one, no matter their illness, ask them what they need.

If they don’t give a concrete answer, do what you would do if it were you, but then give them a hug. Being there, listening, and a bit of physical contact can go a long way in helping someone feel better.

Wishing you health and happiness.

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