Two hands, one holding a green leaf, and the other one holding a dead leaf.

How Caregiving Changes Us – What Dies, What Grows

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how we change over time as caregivers – the parts of ourselves that die and the new parts that grow.

What has died in me:

  • An assumption that I will have spontaneity in my life
  • The idea that life would carry on according to my plans
  • The inability to be alone
  • Insecurity in my own abilities to do what I put my mind to
  • Fear of vulnerability
What has grown in me:
  • The sense of being happy without other people to ‘make’ me happy
  • Humility in the face of the random nature of what life deals me
  • Confidence in my values and in my advocacy skills
  • Acceptance of my own limitations in keeping my loved ones healthy and safe
  • A growing awareness of my own mortality
What has died in you? What has grown?
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About the Author

Donna Thomson , Caregiver

Donna Thomson cares for her adult son with severe disabilities and for her Mom who is still feisty at 93. She's the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I've Learned From a Life of Caregiving (The House of Anansi Press, 2014) and blogs regularly at The Caregivers' Living Room. Donna is the Caregiving Advisor for Tyze Personal Networks, a free online tool designed to help caregivers coordinate a network of support.


  1. As a caregiver with/for my 85 year old mom, who is living with psychosis and schizophrenia, I haven’t thought much about this question before.

    I think more about what do I want to cultivate in my life and what will restore my love and patience to the world…starting with myself.

    Caregiving is tough, and isolating, especially when a family member has a mental illness. And recently I have really started to ASK for help.

    So – I could say that isolation and the feeling of overwhelming shame, and the need to seek refuge in isolation is being released from me. Recently, I have been specifically asking and telling people what is going on for me, and what is happening with my Mom and asking for help.

    What is born in me – is more of a resolve to nurture my own well being. This is a gift that comes with an edge of grief. It is a gift to acknowledge that I can give myself the time, attention, effort and commitment to follow my path and find refuge in my own gifts – and art practice. And the grief comes from recognizing that learning this kind of self-comfort and leadership, might normally have come from my Mom, who wasn’t able to provide it.

    Or maybe this is a fantasy…the role of loving mother guidance to open up a child’s creativity? Perhaps sometimes, the hard truth is that creativity, independence, centering of self, come from seeking balance in the battles of life – the way the hard edges push us back into ourselves to find peace and independence. And over time we grow into ourselves.

    Ah the answers are ongoing…

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Donna Thomson and for asking this question.

    • I have just stimbled on this on my old i-phone- still open – must have been reading it almost one year ago!! Other insights: how times flies & how resources such as these dialogues can ease the feelings that one is the only perspn with these vulnerabilites & second guessing. Few of our parents had to deal with these things when their parents were in the 80’s & 90’s – remembering their incapability to realize it all gives perspective when the thank you’s are not verbalized

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