“You’re a wonderful person,” he states, matter-of-factly. His serene face portrays no emotion, but his eyes smile when he utters the words. I know he is sincere, yet at this moment I’m not quite ready to believe him. He is a rabbi, I am my mother’s caregiver, and I have come to see him for spiritual guidance.

My feelings of disconnection and helplessness begin to melt as he speaks. The He seems wiser than any rabbi I have ever knownswirling roller coaster of emotions comes to an abrupt halt and then swerves slowly towards the calmer, gently sloping ride ahead. I can actually see it; I sit back and relax.

Despite my years of experience as a geriatric social worker, I have, at times, felt at a loss when it comes to helping myself. But here is a person who is more than willing to listen to my heart and soul. He seems wiser than any rabbi I have known and I am mesmerized by the light of kindness, compassion and wisdom which he shines my way, despite the fact that he has never met me before, nor am I a member of his congregation.

When I initially placed the call to him, he had just returned from a very exhausting trip to the other side of the world. The message I left was clear. There was no emergency. He could get back to me if and when he had the time and energy. He returned my call the next day. Yes, I had definitely come to the right place.

Let’s turn the clock back a few days prior to this encounter, when I had my gallbladder removed during a successful and uneventful laparoscopy. I arrived home the same day; I’m used to getting things done and bouncing back as quickly as possible following any surgery I undergo. I even attended a wedding the day following this particular procedure. Things were going swimmingly well, or so I thought.

Before I continue, let me say that I truly love and respect my mother. Her Holocaust background compounded by declining health, have taken their toll on her over the years. Yet, truth be told, the transition over this last year-and-a-half that she has resided with us has resulted in a dramatic improvement of her situation. The many crises which had depleted our energy and time when she lived alone and depressed have been replaced by a more peaceful, happy period for her with the bonus of stabilized health.

As for me, well, regardless of the fact that I feel grateful that I can look after her needs, I have been plagued with the many ups and downs which caregivers face every day, and my patience and tolerance levels have fluctuated along with her difficulties or moods at any given time.

The moment of truth arrived a few days following my surgery. I had felt extremely tired and frustrated; I needed to vent. I knew that despite the fact that I am usually great with my mother, I had been more impatient with her lately. This morning found me muttering under my breath. I am ashamed to say that the words that came out of my mouth are not suitable for print. One of my adult sons (a truly remarkable person who never complains about anything) walked into the kitchen moments later and expressed his dismay and disgust at my behavior. I quietly informed him that Bubbe didn't hear me. His response hit me like a ricocheting bullet. “I did,” he replied.

Well, if he heard me, then G‑d most certainly did I thought as my eldest son slowly walked away in silence.

For the next two days, he avoided me and refused to talk about the incident. I felt disappointed and angry with myself, like I belonged in the trash can along with the rest of the refuse.

At that point in time, my only sibling, who resides about a five-hour drive away, had not called his mother for about a year. The last occasion he had visited her had been two winters prior. There was no one else. I knew that I was her only hope for contentment in the last years of her life.

My mother still refuses to socialize with others in any senior clubs or activities. I know that I am not going to change her ways, nor should I attempt to, but I felt an enormous sense of responsibility and pressure to provide everything she ever needed; in other words, I thought I needed to be perfect. I needed to be her stimulation, her soother, her rock. The pressure that comes with that feeling is nothing less than terrifying at times. And yet, I was also grateful for the privilege of being there for her, as she was for me, for so many years. Conflicting emotions all tugging at me. I knew it was time to see the rabbi.

Before my appointment with him, I decided to speak to my son; the silence between us was deafening. It had been a couple of days since the situation with my mother. I knew that he was ready to talk.

I apologized and told him that I realize I cannot be perfect. I reassured him that I was taking the appropriate steps to deal with things. I also told him that I understood that my mother’s well-being, as well as that of the rest of my family was directly related to my own state of mind and body on any given day.

He understood at the gut level; within a few minutes, he walked towards me with tears streaming down his face; he opened his arms, gave me a warm hug straight from the heart, told me how much he loved me, and (get this) that I was the best mom anyone could ever hope for.

It’s very difficult sometimes to admit that you can’t do it all. I realize that I, like millions of other women out there, am the glue that holds the family structure together. My hard-working husband, my children and mother depend on me to provide a sense of peace and calm in the household. When my mother wakes up in the morning, she looks at my face for cues about how her day will go. Her sensitivity to my demeanor makes it imperative for me to look cheerful and upbeat. I need to be strong and disciplined each and every day; it is crucial for her well-being, and I am determined to keep her stable and out of a hospital setting for as long as I can. That means the following:

1. I need an outlet outside of the home where I can vent my feelings;

2. I must stay healthy in order to provide the quality of care giving which she deserves. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so much.

That is why this visit to the rabbi was crucial in determining the next steps I He made himself available when I needed himneeded to take. I could have gone to a therapist or counselor, but I already knew what they would say; I was one of them for a long time. I required something that they couldn’t offer. This rabbi understood my predicament, and made himself immediately available when I needed him. He assisted me in finding the strength that was there all along.

For those of you who have been afraid to seek guidance, for whatever reasons, please put aside your fears and go for help now. Someone with expertise in the area will help you figure out what and who you need to assist you as a caregiver. What we do in taking care of a loved one is a noble task. We must be equipped to deal with the physical, psychological and emotional wear and tear which accompany this role. There is no need to be a martyr, so don’t suffer with your feelings in silence, for no one will benefit, and surely you and those around you will eventually pay the price.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is very difficult. And sometimes, it simply means picking up the phone and dialing the right number.