Grief. I’ve asked myself before, what does this word even mean? Grief…it’s just a word, a blanket term for feelings and emotions so big, so painful, no word or phrase will ever come close to touching the true depth of its meaning.
Grief entered my life the second my beautiful boy left it. Grief showed up abruptly, almost violently, swallowing me whole. I didn’t know Grief then, and I was terrified of it. It jumped on my back and surely I didn’t have the strength to withstand it, how could I?? My son had just left me and the weight of it all threatened to consume me. Grief grabbed ahold of me, the pressure constricting my chest. Each breath became a calculated thought. So much effort being put forth just to squeeze air in past the Grief that was now wrapped around my neck. Grief hurt. It was terrifying, all-encompassing.
Slowly, reluctantly, tenderly…I stopped being terrified of Grief. Its grip around my neck loosened ever-so-slightly and I was able to shift it around. I stared Grief right in its ugly, yet beautifully familiar face and I accepted it. “I accept you, Grief. I’m not afraid of you anymore. You’re here because my son is gone and I want to hate you for it, I so desperately want to hate you for it!!…..but you’re a part of me now, forever. I’ll accept you because I need you now…we’re in this together.”
Do you want to know what the most unfair thing about this whole process is that no one warned me about? There’s a secret no one prepared me for… Grief doesn’t come alone. No, Grief has a shadow—a dark, awful sidekick is lurking in Grief’s shadow, just waiting for the opportunity to make its presence known. That sidekick’s name is Guilt. Oh, Guilt is a tricky one. The moment I made peace with Grief, accepted it and even began to nurture it---Guilt was right there, waiting. The first time a smile crossed my lips or the first time I broke out into genuine laughter after my sweet boy died…you can bet Guilt was right there with a sting so fierce it almost felt as if the smile was slapped across my face. The laughter immediately replaced with a punch in the gut. Any time Grief and I come to a mutual understanding—“I might not need you today, Grief. Maybe today I’ll try and breathe on my own and take a break from you. Maybe today I’ll be fine, happy even.” Grief understands, is encouraging…but not Guilt. Guilt is right there, ready to strike. Moving forward runs me right into Guilt’s weary path, and there’s no way around it.
I don’t want this Guilt. “Who are you and why are you here?!? No one invited you! I don’t accept you, Guilt! Please, just leave me alone…..please?” I don’t think it cares. Guilt has no regard for my feelings the way Grief does. I acknowledge Grief, protect it, in a way. We’ve grown together, Grief is a part of me and I am familiar with it now. I know it’s there and I’m okay with it.
Guilt just eats away at the parts of me I’ve worked so hard to rebuild. How is it fair that moving forward---essentially just living life---evokes such a strong sense of Guilt? I don’t have any other choice, I have to keep going, to keep living this life without my son and yet Guilt won’t leave me alone. It won’t stop taunting me and punishing me for every step forward I take. Every positive emotion is accompanied by this dark shadow of Guilt. No one tells you this before you lose a child. No one tells you that along with the sadness and loss (Grief) you’ll also be assaulted with Guilt every time you happen to feel anything good. No one lets you know that ahead of time. Why would they? It’s not something you say to someone who is about to go through it. It’s not something anyone wants to hear, wants to believe. It’s just not.
I’m here to tell you that Grief and Guilt are a part of this life, at least they’re a part of my life. Grief is like an old friend to me now, I am weathering this life with Grief by my side. I’m okay with that. Guilt is something I’m still figuring out. I won’t nurture it the way I do Grief. It’s not wanted, will never be welcomed. I’m learning how to call on a new friend, Strength when Guilt rears its ugly head. Strength has an army of Hope, Faith and Love behind it. I think I’d much rather have them on my side anyway.
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