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Friday, March 12, 2010

Living with loss...and guilt.

Through support groups, I've made a lot of new "friends" online; all of us connected by the one thing we wish had never touched our lives - our loss. And while our stories may be different, there are a few things that ring true for us all. After a loss and the devastating grief that comes with it, also comes the unexplainable and gut wrenching guilt. We all have it. Each one of us. I don’t know why, really, and yet I do.

It’s easy to tell a loss mommy or daddy they have nothing to feel guilty about. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s pretty clear that accidents and horrible twists of nature and fate happen. Be devastated and ask why me. Sure…but don’t feel guilty. Get angry, cry when you need to and grieve…but don’t feel guilty.

Guilt over a loss is something hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it. I think some people think they understand, but they don’t. Not really. Knowing what I know now, I can say that I never truly would have.

Before the guilt really sets in, and after total grief has taken over, there is anger and blame. It’s usually unfounded, but it’s there. I was angry at the powers that be, nature, and the world. Then it got more focused…I became angry at other new moms with happy, healthy live children, my doctor for not being there and the friends I had who suddenly couldn’t find the words of comfort I needed to hear and left me alone. I was angry with my husband for not knowing how to comfort me, and the solitude I felt in my grief. Finally after being angry at anything and everything around me, I got angry with myself.

I just knew that somehow it was my fault that my baby died. No, our baby, which made the guilt worse. I took my husband’s son away. My body failed, and I was to blame. My body had betrayed me, and I could never forgive myself.

Was it because I worked all the way through my pregnancy? Lifting things that maybe were a tad too heavy? Not exercising like I should have? Not eating healthy like I planned? Or worse…suspecting he wasn’t moving a whole lot those few days leading up to his death and not saying anything. Keeping my mouth shut because I thought I was being paranoid. Could I have prevented that if only I had spoken up? Would my son be with me now if only I had said something?

I’ll never have my answers. The truth is, most of us won’t. It’s a peace we have to find in ourselves, a knowledge we have to come to terms with. Knowing my son won’t come back even if I had an explanation for his death didn’t stop my mind from running over all of the events that led up to it. It didn’t stop me from hating myself because I went against my instincts that something was wrong.

My only job was to protect him, and I failed. Failed in the worst way.

No one could have told me it wasn’t my fault when I knew that it had to be.

I’ve worked through most of that in the last few months. I’ve asked a lot of whys. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that sometimes, shit just happens. And sometimes, that shit happens to you.

That’s putting it extremely mildly, I know. But it’s almost a bottom line. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Horrible things like this unfortunately happen every day. I’m not alone. I’m not alone. The thought breaks my heart and brings a bit of comfort at the same time.

Why do we feel the need to place the blame somewhere? I ask this as I still look for the answer. I think it’s because loss is a consuming, devastating, debilitating, life changing event and we need to know that there’s a reason we are experiencing it. There has to be a reason this happened to me. I’m a good person. We didn’t deserve this.

At the same time I was thinking that I must have done something wrong, I would think I did all of the right things. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t do drugs. I went to all of my appointments and took my vitamins every day. And, I was happy.

I was happy.

We’ll never know why this happened to us. I’ve slowly learned to forgive myself. Almost. Letting go of the guilt means I’m absolving myself of all the responsibility and blame in our loss. Acknowledging it wasn’t my fault. Telling myself that I can let go, and it’s okay.

Strangely, the guilt is the strongest connection I have with my son. I’m not ready to let go of it just yet. I’m not sure I will be able to. The goal now is finding that peace within myself and coming to terms with what happened. No wishing, no blaming.

Just peace.

Time will give me that. I will give me that…with time. Until then…I’m still a work in progress.

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