Apologizing After a Caregiving Blowup

By Carol Bradley Bursack

Caregiving, even during the best of times, can be stressful.

Family members and friends who are clueless about the realities of caregiving, often add to the stress by offering "advice," which sounds to you like criticism rather than help. You're a good person and likely they are, too, so you stuff your irritation, bite back a sarcastic response and let the comments or actions pass – this time.

One day, however, you are extra stressed, tired and frustrated by the enormity of your caregiving duties. Your friend happens by at a bad time and offers just a bit of well-meaning advice.

You snap.

Immediately, you recognize that your nasty response is way out of proportion to your friend's comment. She's been there for you, even though when caregiving starts, friends often scatter. The person yo u’re really angry at is your sister who repeatedly criticizes your caregiving ability. The problem is that words, once uttered, can't be withdrawn.

How do you patch up the ragged hole your misplaced remark made in the fabric of your friendship?

You apologize. That sounds simple enough, but it's not for many people.

A sincere apology takes introspection and humility, and those are attributes that may be hard to come by in your current state of feeling angry with your sister. You know your nasty mood isn't your friend's fault, but all you can do is muster a lame excuse for your behavior.

Be aware that an excuse isn't an apology, but it may have to do for the time being. You can hope that your friend is kind enough to let it go at that, but don't make the mistake of thinking that your words didn't injure her. 

Go ahead and allow yourself some space.

Realize that you are under stress and that you are tired of having people tell you how to be a good caregiver when they don't know how much you must do, and how frustrating and exhausting your days are. However, this reprieve is only temporary.

Try to uncover why you acted in such a hurtful manner

If you truly want to mend the rift with your friend, you need to understand what triggered your anger and why you took your frustration with your sister out on them.

One reason we often direct our anger and resentment on those closest to us is that we feel safe. We feel that these people won't abandon us.

We don't intend to treat our friends shabbily. After all, they deserve our loving kindness. Yet, if we don't find a healthy outlet for our anger and resentment over what we feel is undeserved criticism about our caregiving skills, the anger is likely to come out sideways, and our best friend takes the hit.

Once you understand why you behaved poorly to your friend, you may be able to offer a sincere apology. Hopefully, you will also have made progress in learning to handle your emotions in a healthier way, so that a person who is your biggest supporter doesn't become your target the next time you blow.

What if your anger is justified?