Compassion Burnout, A Harsh Reality for Many Caregivers

By on April 12, 2015

Sometimes you feel as though if you hear of one more catastrophe befalling a friend or family member, one more tragedy, one more burden someone you care about has to bear, you’ll scream. Because you already feel so much sympathy – and empathy – for that person, and you have so much compassion for them and the trials they have faced… so much that you have none left to share with them, or anyone else.

Sometimes, the person facing trial after travail after tragedy is… you. And when you’re burdened with so much to worry about, hearing about someone else’s problems is just too much to face. You want to care, but you have nothing left in you to give.

Compassion burnoutThis is especially true of people who are naturally compassionate, who are people-pleasers, who just want everyone to be happy and comfortable. People who are caregivers, in other words. Caregivers care. It’s what we do, who we are. We care about our families, our friends, even our acquaintances, even strangers, much more than others do. We care about their well-being, about their safety, about their comfort. We care about others so much, we forget to care about ourselves. Until our “care” gets used up and we cannot care any more. We’re just too overwhelmed to care.

That’s when caregivers worry about being bad people, because we cannot care as much as we think we should. When we wonder if we’ll let everyone down because we just cannot give a rat’s tail about what happens next to anyone. Even ourselves.

This is compassion burnout. It’s usually temporary, but there’s no set time limit on it. It happens to people in every walk of life, in every profession, at every level, at any age. Parents, caregivers, nurses, aides, doctors, teachers, therapists, first responders… people who care get worn out and become numb.

The best way to deal with it is to not push it, not try to hurry through it. Just try to relax, take each day as it comes. Sooner or later – sometimes almost too soon – we will start caring again, start worrying again, start being compassionate again. Until the next time we’re so overwhelmed, our compassion burns up again….

Meet Judy Morton

Drains and Radiators – Caring for an Aging Parents   image

End of Life : Denial, Decisions and Caregiving  

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