Of all the emotions I’ve ever experienced… GUILT has to be the worst.
Guilt is the most unrelenting, torturous, painful human emotion I’ve ever felt. It doesn’t boil to the point of boiling over and calming back down like anger does. That would be better. Guilt somehow remains at a fast simmer… for weeks, months, years or even for a lifetime.
Sometimes guilt can be healthy. It helps us to feel empathy for other people. It teaches us that our actions have a consequence and that we can hurt people if we aren’t careful. Guilt can lead to a lot of self improvement in order to avoid that feeling again.
But what about when the guilt that plagues you is because of something that isn’t necessarily your fault? This kind of guilt often plagues you and makes you question everything relentlessly. Sometimes forever. I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about.
I call it the Carousel of Guilt
Almost five years ago my son died in the middle of the night. He was a healthy, happy, incredibly loved little boy who had just received his 4 month vaccinations. Over the past five years I’ve been plagued by the toxic repetitive “What if’s?” that keep me stuck on the carousel of guilt.
What if I hadn’t vaccinated him? What if I’d waited? What if we’d never done it? What if I’d checked on him sooner? What if I’d done CPR when I found him instead of stepping back in horror and going into shock while my husband grabbed his body and ran out the front door with him? What if I’d been active in a church… maybe God wouldn’t have let this happen? What if I hadn’t put him down to sleep until I went to bed myself? Maybe I would have been able to save him…
This Carousel of Guilt is destructive not only to the person trapped on the ride, but also to everyone around them. You can’t function when you’re drowning in guilt. You just… can’t…
A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about forgiveness and I talked a little bit about how I’d been molested as a child by my uncle. After I posted, I was able to talk to my mom about her feelings in a way we’d never talked before.
That guilt I felt about Mason… my mom had felt for me since the moment she found out about the abuse I endured. She said she would never forgive herself. Or him.
I have several friends whose children have been the victims of sexual abuse, and these moms have said similar things. The guilt THEY feel nearly consumes them. I’ve listened as they said that they FAILED to keep their child protected. That they “let” someone hurt them. (When in reality, they had no idea about the abuse and when they found out they did everything in their power to prevent it from happening again.)
There is a difference between your child getting hurt, and “letting” your child get hurt. My mother took me to my dad’s mothers home to spend the night.
No normal human being thinks to ponder the question, “Will she get raped and tortured while her grandmother watches?”
No average mom wonders, “Will my daughter get molested by her friends older brother while they are playing for 30 minutes on a Saturday afternoon?”
No one thinks to ask, “Will my child get molested by my other child while I am just a few feet away?”
It is only after you’ve experienced nightmares more horrifying than anything you could have ever imagined that you even begin to ask these kinds of questions. It’s just not something we are programmed to think about.
It’s easy to recognize a mother who has been impacted by something as tragic as having a child die or having a child abused. They are the mothers who are “helicopter parents,” who ask a million questions, who worry about everything, who are overprotective. And with good reason.
Because most often these are some of the BEST parents in the world who just for one second weren’t able to save their child.
Eckhart Tolle once said, “The past has no power over the present moment.” And I tend to agree. The past only has power if YOU let it.
I know that I will always end up back on the Carousel of Guilt… but I also know that I will choose to get back off and not be tethered to it. There will always be good days and there will always be bad days.
I’ve been the child that couldn’t be protected AND I’ve been the parent drowning in guilt that I couldn’t protect my child…
I’ve learned that Rumi was right when he said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Let the light in, and let the healing begin. Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed, it just means that it’s not controlling your life anymore.