Decades of empirical research regarding families of persons with serious mental illnesses has documented the stress and burden associated with the caregiving role. Recent changes in health care delivery have increased responsibilities of family caregivers without appreciably alleviating their stress. The complexities of the caregiving role need to be investigated if effective interventions are to be realized. To date, a critical but understudied area of investigation is the meaning of this experience for family caregivers and how that meaning affects their responses to the caregiving role. The purpose of this interpretive study was to increase understanding of the meaning of caregiving that caregivers derived from ongoing interactions with the ill relative. In-depth interviews were conducted with 15 family caregivers of psychiatric inpatients. Thematic analysis of the textual data revealed that the meaning of caregiving was constituted by the following concerns: finding the essence of the person obscured by the illness, finding a place for self in influencing the illness, and helping the relative to move forward.