The guilt behind smiling

It’s been two and a half years since Nash passed. I remember being at the beginning of this long journey and wondering how I would feel more than two years later. I’ve heard it said that grief comes in waves, and I find this to be true at this point in my journey. I have extremely good days and depressingly low days. My low days are few in comparison to the good, but when I have my bad days, they are the worst they have ever been. Todd asked me just a couple of months ago, “Doesn’t it seem worse now that time has passed?” I have to agree. Although I have fewer bad days, when I do have them, they are physically and emotionally debilitating. Almost as if my brain is now able to wrap itself around what happened. I can process it better, which is not a good thing.

In the beginning, I was sad every second of every day, but it almost felt like a haze. I couldn’t process what happened, there was almost a confusion and chaos to it…I didn’t feel the slam from being on a high to dropping to an extreme low, everyday was low. That is  with the exception of the day Nash died. That day I was happy, working and talking about my baby, and minutes later I was driving to a hospital in a panic…and then holding Nash, trying to process that he was gone, when hours earlier he was smiling as I held him. That’s a high high to an extreme low.

That it also how it is today. It literally hits me like a truck. I will be at work and get a flash of Nash in my head, and once that ball is rolling there is no stopping it. I can’t breathe, I feel sick, my eyes swell with tears, and then I finally succumb to my depression. I no longer ask myself, “Did this really happen? Did I really lose my son?” Now, I know, I feel that absence. I see time moving on without him. I’ve celebrated holidays, birthdays, weddings, births, and he wasn’t here for any of these things. I know he is gone. It’s confirmed every single day in a multitude of ways. Now that time has passed, I’m also expected to be better, so there is a large amount of hiding or putting on a facade. I don’t have the luxury of people understanding the way they did in the beginning. I can’t expect to leave work every other day and keep my job. I can’t expect to not go to family functions and have my family understand. This is exhausting.

The one thing that has stayed the absolute same since the beginning is the guilt. Guilt for breathing, eating, smiling. When I have a bad Nash day, my first thoughts are about how I have kept living…how dare me for moving on in any way. A close family member who lost a child said something to me on the anniversary of her daughter’s death that really hit me. She said, “I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough.” Wow! No truer words have been spoken. As time passes, I do better, I cope better, I smile more…I’m not just living, I am actually enjoying life.

I can’t tell you how awful that feels when you have lost a child. How terrible it is when you have a bad day and reflect on all the smiling you have done. I think it’s the worst part about a parent’s grief in my opinion. That even when you are doing well, you punish yourself for it. Like, it’s not fair to your child that you are happy and living life as if they were not here. Sometimes I wish I would have taken the alcoholic route, just to feel like I’m punishing myself the right amount, if that makes sense. I should be drunk and homeless, digging food out of the trash can. Instead, I’m enjoying life with his brother.

This is the only thing I no longer feel guilty for…loving Crue. I can’t afford for Crue to feel anything less than loved! I feel as if I have already let one child down. I have already failed in the worst way possible on my first trip around the parenting block, and I will not do that with Crue! I pour every ounce of love I can into him, and he makes my heart ooze with happiness. It is the best choice I have ever made, not just to have him but to love him guilt free. As much as I grieve still, I see a small light at the end of the tunnel, and if that’s all I ever get, it’s better than where I once was. It’s amazing to feel that way and the worst feeling all at the same time.

I remember the day after Nash died, searching the internet for the answers I have today but couldn’t find…I have found that the answers aren’t always what you want to hear, but I feel a responsibility to share them. So, to the mother at the beginning of this journey…does it get better? Yes. Will you feel guilty for it? Yes. Will you always cry? Yes. Will you survive? Yes. Will you be happy again. Yes!  And with a little luck, the light at the end of your tunnel may even be a rainbow.

3 thoughts on “The guilt behind smiling

  1. As usual Shelly your writings are so great. I pray my daughter & son-in law will find some peace & happiness in their lives. You & your husband along with my family’s situation are not guilty of anything but loving their sons .rubelevelyn @gmail.com

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  2. You most certainly did NOT “fail” the first time around the parenting block. The Lord would not want you to look at yourself that way for one single moment. You loved Nash with your whole Motherly heart & being every single second you had with him. As incredibly hard as it must be to see — ALL of us have a given time and hour on this earth — Nash had already fulfilled his duty. Was the purpose of that duty for Crue to be here..? Perhaps. Was it to test your marriage to the utmost..? Perhaps. Was it to bring you closer to God..? Perhaps. Was it to bring you guilt & make you feel like a failure..? Absolutely not. You are a WONDERFUL Mother. Remember that even on your bad days.

    ❤ Sara

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  3. Love and prayers and light your way. There is no limit on grief; anyone who doesn’t understand that or expects you to “be fine” 100% of the time is off their rocker. Your grief honors what the wonderful tiny human Nash was, and honors your love and adoration for him. But never feel guilty for surviving or for loving his brother. It’s easier said than done, but you are amazing. You’re helping so many other families through your words and honesty; that must be so incredibly difficult and I am in awe of you for it.

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