One of the worst things about losing someone to suicide is the guilt. Don’t get me wrong… there’s plenty of pain not related to guilt, too. But I can rattle off dozens – maybe even hundreds – of reasons why my son’s death is my fault. From that Mai tai I drank 3 weeks into my pregnancy (I didn’t know I was pregnant yet) that I’m certain caused a faulty serotonin development level in his brain (aka: depression) to getting a text message that said. “Hey – I love you” and not immediately going to make sure he was ok.
It’s not just me. I hear it from other survivors, too.
Robbie tries to reassure me that I was a great mom. That Drey knew I loved him. At one point I told Robbie Drey killed himself because I let him play violent video games when he was too young. He reminded me of the time Drey’s friend had Grand Theft Auto and Drey wanted to play. 6th or 7th grade maybe? I made Drey and his friend play it in front of me and I asked questions about what they thought of the different things they saw. Good Mom, right? Thank you for that reminder, Robbie. I did care, I was engaged. So my index finger formed a check mark in the air. Meaning what? I got one right? Now I can be guilt-free? I’m constantly grading myself. And every parenting choice I ever made is all or nothing. Pass or fail. It either sits on the side of the ledger that contributed to Drey’s death or it sits on the side that communicated my love for him. Nothing’s neutral.
I experience relief from the guilt when I don’t think about it. In the beginning I couldn’t help but to think about it 24/7. Then after the first year or so I was able to control my thoughts – sometimes. Or at least catch myself sooner. You know, before my thoughts turned into a ruminating pile of “I should have” pain.
I don’t share this so friends will feel sorry for me and tell me it wasn’t my fault. What’s most helpful is to acknowledge my ache of responsibility… don’t attempt to convince me otherwise. Only God can do that. So pray, pray, pray.
I share this for fellow guilt-ridden survivors. You are not alone. I know it hurts like hell. The pit of despair is gut-wrenching. AND WE HAVE TO LEARN TO LIVE WITH IT. The relief I experience from reminding myself of when I “got it right” is fleeting. And my ability to block out the guilty thoughts is completely unsustainable. The only true relief comes from acknowledging I am not a perfect parent. God is! Yep – here I go gettin all religious and shit. The football stadium verse – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Why did He send His son to overcome death? 1) Because God is holy and righteous. He couldn’t just willy nilly grade on a curve and say some character flaws are ok and others aren’t. Our imperfection had to be paid for in order to be in His presence for eternity. 2) Because God loves us perfectly and wants us with Him. How could He not provide a way to be with the loves of His life?! He delights in us!
So I remain in the fight. Sometimes the guilt wins my mood, sometimes peace does. I’ve learned to steer clear of scenarios like this Sunday… the teaching/church service is from Ephesians 6 on parenting. No thank you. Instead First Watch and Floridian French toast – or maybe fresh fruit crepes? are calling my name 🙂 Oh – and coffee with lotsa hazelnut creamer! Num num num! Want to join me? First Watch Sunday at 10a – German Village on High St.
Thank You for loving me, God. Thank You for knowing what it’s like to lose your only son. I’m never alone.