When You’re New to Being a Caregiver

by James E. Miller

The German writer Herman Hesse once wrote, "Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go." An unavoidable truth about being a caregiver is that you will have to learn the lesson of letting go. You will not be able to control the other’s affliction. You cannot protect them from the effects of any illness. You must surrender your ability to make everything go exactly as you wish, exactly as they wish.

None of this letting go is easy; you may find yourself resisting it at every turn. Yet it is important to remember that there is also much you need not surrender. You do not have to let go of who you have been and who you are, of all that makes you distinctly you. Nor do you have to let go of the uniqueness of the one you care for.

You can still treasure the love you have had and still feel. You can continue to embrace all you remember, all you have learned, all you have shared. You can preserve your faith and your hope, even as you are preserved by them.

You can exert a certain control over your perspective, over the rituals of how you spend time together, over the ways in which you spend time apart.

Must you let go?


Is there much you can always keep?



James E. Miller and Christen Pettit Miller have written 12 helpful ideas for family members who are new to caregiving in their small book This Time of Caregiving: Words of Encouragement and Hope. It’s particularly suited to those who are involved in hospice. You may find out more about this resource here.