Guilt and therapy

Sometimes having a good day brings on a bad day. I’ve heard many women talk about “mothers guilt.” Guilt for yelling at her child. Guilt for not spending enough time with her child. Guilt for losing patience with her child. It seems guilt and motherhood go hand in hand. Imagine the guilt you feel when your child loses his or her life, yet you go on living yours; its excruciating. Nash is no longer here. His life is done, cut short. He no longer will hit any milestones in life. He no longer gets to play, laugh, smile. He will never grow older, never crawl, never walk, never have a job, relationship, or children. He will never speak one word, never reach out to hug someone. Never pucker his lips to kiss his parents. I could go on and on listing everything he was cheated out of. Everything Todd and I were cheated out of. When I smile, laugh, have a conversation I think about how these are all things he will never do. The pain and guilt associated with living your life after your child no longer gets to live his is a pain I could never describe with enough emotion to convey the level of depression it involves.

I can now say I’m at a point where there are minutes during the day when I don’t think of him…only minutes. May not seem like much but its definitely an improvement from three months ago. An improvement; just writing that makes me sick. You have to understand that me being able to function better since his passing is what most would call improvement. That I’m doing better, even. Why on earth would I not want to think about my child? If I go a period of time without doing so, it doesn’t seem right to label it as an improvement…but let’s face it, that’s what it is. I’m functioning better. I don’t fall to my knees and become a sobbing mess on the floor, not anymore at least. Now I walk around in a state of numbness. I can still cry at the drop of a hat but I have a lot more control over when that happens.

When I think of Nash, I make myself play memories in my head. I think of key days, times, events. I try to take in as much as I can possibly remember. When he first died, I didn’t have to do that. I could be doing anything, and very vivid memories would play in my mind. I would put my hand in his crib and see him there. I would remember the way it felt to rub his back as he lay there. It was like I could almost feel his little body. Now I put my hand in his crib, squint, and try my best to remember every detail. When I talk to him in prayers, I am able to talk to him like I would talk to anyone. I tell him about my day. I talk to him about his brother on the way. Sometimes I laugh and smile, sometimes I cry. When I use to talk to him, I would hiccup cry and apologize to him for my shortcomings as a mother. I would tell him how much it hurts to be here with out him, how much I miss him, how much I miss us. I  can say now, for the most part, that I’m able to just talk to him without crying, at least not until I get to the end of my prayer where I always say, “I’m still here baby, missing you.” That always brings me to tears.

I think about his brother on the way and feel like I am on a roller coaster of mixed emotions pulling me in all different directions. I go from excitement and happiness to fear and anxiety. I fear getting close to him and then losing him. People tell me all the time that the chances of that happening again are so rare. To me it feels common. I had one child and he died. I know nothing else. In my experience, tragedies happen and they happen to me. My friend Leslie was talking to me one day about how she is coping with her pregnancy after the loss of her son. It was crazy the fears we shared. Fears I thought were absolutely bizarre that I alone was having. It was so nice to hear I wasn’t crazy, that this must be normal for people in our situation. One of the fears we share is something going wrong during labor. We both worry either the baby will die or we will. I have actually told Todd if it’s between me and the baby, chose the baby. Leslie said she has had this same conversation with her husband.

Leslie has done something I haven’t done to this point and I don’t know if I will. She has reluctantly talked to a professional at the urging of her family. I told her I haven’t wanted to yet, but sometimes I think about it. Maybe it could help. I’m so closed-minded about it though that the poor therapist would have no chance from the get go. I know the minute I walked into their office I would already be judging them on the fact that they have no real life experience with losing a child. What they know they have studied and been taught. That’s already one huge strike in my book. Leslie told me the last person she saw had asked her why she thought something would happen to this baby. Why would you think that would happen? Just because your son passed away does not mean your daughter will. It’s this kind of thinking I want to avoid. The reality is that we know its unlikely. We know these thoughts are somewhat irrational…but at the same time, are they? It did happen to us. Why wouldn’t it happen again is a better question.

I’m not completely closed-minded to therapy and the only reason for this is because of my friend Lauren. She is a therapist who specializes in family counseling. She does, however, see people who are dealing with loss and grief as well. I always feel better after talking to her. She never judges me or disregards what I am feeling. She doesn’t try to explain things away.  She always tries to take in what I am saying and even justifies any irrational thought I may have. I will say something so off-the-wall in my eyes , something like, “I am afraid I will be upset if the new baby doesn’t look like Nash but at the same time I’m scared I’ll be upset if he does.” She will just look at me and say, “I get that.” She never tells me I won’t feel that way. Most people want to do that. They want to give me words of encouragement. To tell me that these scary thoughts I am thinking or feeling are in my head. I have to admit that’s what I would probably do if I was on the other end of this situation.  It seems like the right thing to do. If someone is going through a break up, I like to tell them, “Don’t worry you will find someone new.” Or if someone loses a loved one it seems right to tell them that their loved one is watching over them from Heaven. However, in both of these situations, those words don’t seem to help. I don’t want my dad looking over me from Heaven, I want him here. I don’t want to be told after a breakup not to worry, that I will find someone else. At that time I still love the person, and I am at a point where I couldn’t fathom being with someone else. These are things you need to figure out on your own time.

I think that’s where a lot of parents go wrong. I have heard teenagers tell their parents how upset they are about something at school and then the parent says, “You are making a big deal out of nothing.”  What they are forgetting is that to their child this is a big deal. Have we come so far from our younger years that we can’t remember how huge those seemingly small problems were to us at the time? How terrible it felt when you finally told your mom and dad and they laughed like you were just a silly child who didn’t know what real problems were? Anyway, I am straying from my original thought. Lauren..she has a gift. She definitely went into the right profession. She has so much insight. She is always engaged and open to all things. Almost like she has as much to gain from the conversation as I do.  I never feel that I am going to say something to her and then have to defend what I say. That is something I do a lot. I tell someone, usually family or a close friend, how I feel and they immediately tell me why I am not going to feel that way. Of course they are trying to help, but to me it feels like they are telling me I am wrong. I get mad for two reasons. One, because they have no idea how I will feel so how can they say that. Two, I don’t always want an answer, just an open ear and a shoulder to lean on.

I know it may seem like I’m hard to talk to, but talking to me can be very simple. It just takes a couple small words to make a scentence better. If I say I feel a lot of guilt for things I did less than perfectly when Nash was here, instead of saying “all mothers have guilt” you could say “I think all mothers deal with guilt, I can only imagine that it’s amplified when your child dies.” Or if I say, “I’m scared my baby is going to die.” Instead of saying “the chances of that are rare” you could say “at least your risk of this happening again is low, but I can totally understand why you would feel that way.” It’s really not that hard. All I’m asking for is a little reassurance. You are still saying what you think, but at the same time are not making me feel like my feelings are wrong. When people quickly have a “fix it” answer, I feel defensive and automatically assume they don’t understand. To me it feels like an argument. I used to be able to let those things go. People would say something I didn’t agree with, and I could just brush it off. Now, especially regarding the new baby, I have this desperate need to correct people. I feel terrible for it because I know people are only saying these things to help, yet I quickly tell them why they are wrong. I’m not used to confrontation. I don’t like it, but at the same time it hurts more to hold back. All I want is for people to understand that everything I’m feeling is rational, even if it’s irrational….every thought that crosses my mind, good or bad, right or wrong, is justified.

One thought on “Guilt and therapy

  1. Hi Shelly, I sure miss you and Todd. And am very excited to meet your baby boy. I’ve been wanting to tell you about a dear friend of mine who has told me she would love to talk with you about grief. In fact you met her and her sister at Christina’s shower. These sisters know about grief because their youngest sister died in an accident at age 10. They both blamed themselves and had grief related issues for years. If you would like, I can give you her phone number. She is a prayer minister. Sending love. Happy to be your Aunt Laura

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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