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‘I’ve been tormented by monumental guilt and remorse:’ I attempted to look after my late father, however I gave up. How can I ever forgive myself?


Seeking advice on how to get over a terrible mistake I made. I didn’t care about my old father. I am the oldest of three brothers. One of my brothers took his own life and my other brother wanted nothing to do with the family. My father was totally dependent on me. I tried my best to take care of myself but something snapped inside me and 8 months later I sent him back to India and never wanted to see him again.

I visited him. He was lonely, but my heart wasn’t responding the way it should. He passed away six months after my last visit and three weeks before I would visit him again. Since then, I have been plagued with tremendous guilt and regret. He was a good father, except that everything had to be his own way. But I know that I was a cruel and terrible son and I have to accept that I am who I am. May I know if there is a way to move on?

I’m in therapy but I’m not sure how much it helps me. I find your columns very useful, so I am reaching out to you. Thank-you.


What do aged care professionals know about care challenges that the rest of us don’t?

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Dear R.,

We are not the sum of our thoughts. We are the sum of our actions. The fact is, you saw him again and never stopped thinking about him, and that you never really let go. Your father knew you were in his life until the end. It may even be that your father found some kind of peace to die in the country he was born in. Sometimes things happen the way they’re supposed to happen.

You should understand what you went through. Caregivers carry an enormous burden that affects their physical, financial, and mental health. You did what you could for 8 months and I have no doubt that your father appreciated it and knows you did the best you could then. You stayed here. You stayed in your father’s life all his life.

There is a lot of research on the physical, financial, and emotional burden of care. This study in the American Journal of Nursing comes to the conclusion: “Nursing has all the characteristics of a chronic stress experience: It causes physical and psychological stress over long periods of time and is associated with a high degree of unpredictability and uncontrollability.”

The money is:I married my husband 20 years ago. He has 4 children and I have one. I paid for our house. How are we supposed to split it up after we’re gone?

I am quoting this academic research not to objectify your experience but to help you gain a much-needed perspective. You are one of the millions of people who have chosen to have a dying or sick relative or friend and rarely, if ever, have perfect results. Millions more never try and seek domestic help or a nursing home right away, and that is their journey.

“If you want to respect the memory of your father, celebrate the time you gave each other during your lifetime.”

– The money is

According to the AARP, more than 43 million Americans have become caregivers for friends or relatives aged 50 and over, including treating their medical or financial needs. They receive little training and often fail to grasp the enormous scale and pressure they have to take on the job. Many, many people were broken before you in these conditions, and many more will be.

If I were your therapist – and I obviously am not – I would ask you what can you get out of this torture that you are dying to go through? Or what do you hope to make of it? Reliving pain does not change the past. You wallow in your own regret and accusation. This does not serve your father’s memory, and it does not serve the son he raised.

Hating yourself or drowning in guilt may be some kind of penance, but if you really want to respect the memory of your father, celebrate the time you gave each other during your lifetime. He worked hard for his family and without a doubt wanted them to have a better life in America. He didn’t do any of this for it. He doesn’t want to be the cause of your misfortune either.

You will not meet a person on this earth who has done nothing or said something they are sorry about, or someone who wishes they could have done more. Wallowing in guilt and shame seems like the best way to hold yourself accountable. It is not. Beating yourself up is not a humble act. If you do this to yourself 24/7, you will be in the spotlight.

The money is:Until recently, we were friends with our neighbors for decades. One day they introduced us to their financial advisor …

Write your father a letter, read it in a quiet place that was special to both of you, burn it, and offer it to his memory. Thank him for being the father he was and know that he would be proud of the man you have become. You don’t have to suffer to prove your love. He worked hard throughout his life so that you could be happy. He wouldn’t want that.

As a first generation immigrant to the United States, I know that people don’t leave us just because they’re thousands of miles away. You take them with you wherever you go. People you love and who love you are always by our side despite their and our mistakes. They are right next to us when we want to see them. We may be far from family and friends, but we never have to be alone.

Likewise, people we care about may die, but they never really go away. The feeling, the memories and the love that they leave stay with us. Your father sounded like a strong-willed man. No doubt it could go either way. Why not use some of his fearsome will and pay homage to him by living your best, most productive, and happiest life? Isn’t that all?

Keep this spirit alive and make it proud.

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Hello, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist Private Facebook FB, + 0.60% group, where we look for answers to life’s toughest money problems. The readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or check out the latest Moneyist columns.

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist at with any financial or ethical questions. By emailing your questions, you consent to them being published anonymously on MarketWatch.

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