Posted in after the diagnosis, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Integrity, Living with Illness

Caregiving and Identity

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

Prior to becoming a caregiver did you really have a sense of your identity?  I know many woman who have been mothers talk about being the chauffeur, chef, organizer, etc. and those are the roles that are incorporated into being a mother.  Identity plays an important role in our daily lives.  It’s often the way many of us define ourselves and base our actions on those roles.  When someone you love gets an illness diagnosis you’re already playing many roles and then you get hit with caregiver.

Think about what it means to be a caregiver aside from the obvious.  The roles whether you’re a woman or a man are very similiar.  The roles include, spouse/partner, friend, confidant, chauffeur, chef, housekeeper, entertainer, cheerleader, advocate, nurse, just to name a few.  If exhausted reading the list, think about the exhaustion you feel on a daily basis.

I have a personal note to share and my hope is that you’ll avoid doing things the way I’ve done them.  I used to (notice the past tense) do things the hard way.  I would take the long road, the difficult road the tiring road and then share my experiences.  One day my therapist turned and asked me why I was willing to wear struggle as a badge of courage.  That stopped me in my tracks and decided that’s not the role I wanted to play and I worked hard to change that role.

Our identities are what we cling to because we believe they define us.  In reality, what defines us is knowing, understanding and believing that the roles we take we do out of love and often need.  We assume the various roles as a declaration of compassion.  We assume these roles because that’s what we’re made of, the desire to reduce suffering and pain while allowing someone facing a health challenge to maintain their dignity.

Taking on the role of self-preserver is not a bad thing.  Finding ways to acquire respite care shows how in touch you are with the caregiving process.  Indulging in a special treat for your hard work is not different than rewarding yourself for any other achievement in your life…it’s about self-loving tender kindness.  It’s about discarding the “shoulds” and living with the “this is what I’m capable of”; that doesn’t show lack that show understanding and integrity.  Understanding your limits is a strength not a weakness.

When going through the list of roles expand upon your identity.  Don’t only focus on the action, but the intention or the message you’re sending to the care recipient through your actions.  Consider the qualities it takes in you to fulfill the roles that make up your identity as a caregiver.  You’ll be surprised at the life affirming realizations you make when you go a bit deeper than simply stating your a caregiver.

How do you deal with you caregiver identity?  How has it changed your life?  We’d love to hear how you are managing your life as a caregiver.

I’ve launched a new site that will have short videos packed with information.  Go to  Let me know what you think, new videos will be put up every Sunday.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

One thought on “Caregiving and Identity

  1. j sits in the hospital. waiting for me to visit. waiting for me to rub his head and hold his hand.
    waiting for me to bring j, s and s to see him, waiting for even sally and issy to make an

    m looks at me as we do his homework after visiting the hospital and says i miss daddy. he waits
    for me to tell him that everything is going to be ok, he listens as i explain who is going to take him to
    soccer, who he will have a sleepover with and who will tuck him into bed…not me.

    s asks who will do shabbat since dad is in the hospital? he looks at me with tears in his eyes as
    i explain who will pick him up from school and take him to soccer and then he is lucky enough to have
    a sleepover too. and he looks at me with tears asking why the sleepovers can’t ever be at our house.
    sam leaves this morning and says…i want you to watch me play soccer.

    t wakes up and wants to snuggle. she finds comfort in nursing and does not let go of my nipple until
    i release her. i put on my running shoes and she cries for me to stay home.

    i want to be with j 24 hours a day and comfort him in his painful and frustrating state. i want to be able to
    bring our kids to see their dad. i want to so badly tell my seven year old that dad will be ok. i want to tuck my kids
    in every night, i want to have all of their friends have playdates and sleepovers at our house, i want to take my kids
    to soccer practice and watch them play soccer. i want to nurse my daughter and not have to release her.

    i also want to run each day, i want to have silence that does not involve sleeping, i want the phone not
    to ring and for people not to ask me twenty questions, i don’t want to have to cancel therapy appts time after time after time,
    i want to celebrate raising twenty million dollars, i want to be mad at my husband for not doing the dishes…but i can’t.

    i want to stop disappointing everyone in my life who i love with all of my heart.

    i can’t win.

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