False Guilt

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Since the one I loved died, I have experienced and tried to sort through so many emotions and feelings. I do this in the hope of getting to a point of healing and understanding where I can finally move forward with my life. It is hard work. I can understand where most of these come from and have, at least, started the healing process or have finally come to terms with them. However, I have had one feeling that I really don’t understand and I don’t know what to do with it. I have labeled it as guilt. I have felt the guilt that suicide brings to survivors where I ask how I could have done things differently and so on, but this feeling of guilt is entirely different.

Let me explain. Two months after the one I loved committed suicide, a sweet friend of mine found out she had leukemia. I was stricken. I couldn’t believe it and was in shock like everyone else. I went to the hospital to see her as soon as I was able. She smiled, like she always did, and we visited with each other and the other visitors in her room.

I felt so sad for her and her family having to go through this illness with all its unknowns and fears that go with fighting it. She had a huge amount of support and prayers were going up for her so, so often. She was a beautiful woman both inside and out. I had a very strong protective feeling towards her. I also had so much hope that she would come through this and fully regain her health.

The problem was that I also felt utter and complete guilt over the fact that she had to endure this illness and fight for her life when the one I loved had just thrown his life away. My friend went through horrible treatments to fight her cancer for about 18 months but the cancer just kept coming back. It finally took her life on August 20, 2011.

She fought so hard to live and stay with her family and friends and the one I loved did whatever he had to do to get away from everyone and throw his life away. I just couldn’t grasp why she had to get the cancer when she wanted so, so much to stay and live her life to the fullest. Every time I saw her, I had this hesitation thinking that I had to be a cold reminder of a life thrown away. I would wonder if I was causing them pain in some way. It is an awful feeling and the hardest part was that I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. I never had any indication at all that they felt this way and I’m sure they didn’t. She would have probably been upset if she had known I felt this way and would have done what she could to make sure I knew that I was wrong.

But the guilt continued. I remember so clearly how hard it was when I went to see her for the last time, a few days before she lost her battle. She was in hospice care at her home and wasn’t communicating, but I was able to sit on the bed with her and stroke her hair. I even had a few moments when her mother-in-law left the room and I was able to speak freely to her to tell her how much I loved her and was going to miss her. Then, I was given a rare gift when her mother-in-law came back in and told me that my friend was responding with facial expressions to some things I was saying. She even opened her eyes as I was leaving to go. They weren’t fully open but she watched me as I went back to her and stroked her hair telling her over and over that I loved her. She, then, closed her eyes and I left.

That interaction showed me that she didn’t think these things I felt. It was such a blessing, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference with this feeling. As I sit here typing this, tears are rolling down my cheeks. I can’t think of her for too long without the tears coming. I want to be able to remember her with smiles and laughter but this guilty feeling always comes.

Then I realized, while listening to an audio book recently, that I feel this guilty feeling strongly when I hear about or think about anyone fighting for his or her life or suffering a loss after struggle. In this book, there was a little boy who was dying as he was waiting for a heart. The tears started and I had a hard time getting them to stop. Then that feeling came over me. This boy in the story wasn’t even a real life and that guilty feeling was overwhelming. Later, I listened to another book where a couple found out their unborn baby had a disability. It took me back to friends who were told that their unborn child would not live past his birth. After he was born, I was given the opportunity to serve them by bringing some items they wanted to the hospital. I was also able to hold this beautiful child that was born straight into Heaven. The loss his family felt was palpable. I also knew the struggle and prayers they had during the pregnancy. As I thought of this precious child and his parents, my friends, I felt that guilt again.

“GUILT ISN’T ALWAYS A RATIONAL THING…GUILT IS A WEIGHT THAT WILL CRUSH YOU WHETHER YOU DESERVE IT OR NOT.”

Maureen Johnson

I can’t explain it. I honestly can’t put words to why I’m feeling this way but it is strong and it is a deep, deep hurting wound. I know I don’t understand why some are given every opportunity at life and an abundant one and they choose to throw it away while others fight and battle to the end for their life and for the lives of their loved ones and they lose those battles. I also realize this guilt is a false guilt. I had nothing to do with these losses, was praying so hard for there to be miracles and for their lives to be saved. So, why was and am I so assaulted with these untrue feelings?

At one point, one person asked me if I knew that the one I loved had planned to commit suicide and didn’t try to stop him (this was after a previous attempt on his life). I couldn’t believe the question was ever asked nor could I believe the idea had ever crossed their mind or been entertained, but it was an almost immediate question after being told of the suicide attempt. I wonder if this plays into the feeling sometimes. Was I such a horrible person that this thought could even come to mind or did this person just care so little about me that they never got to know me? I would have done anything to stop him from committing suicide at any time, but I wondered if this question was something someone else has thought. Since this person thought I could so easily let a life be taken then maybe I was seen as a representation of a life thrown away to others. It sounds insane even as I type it, but to be accused of letting someone take their life when I was trying to save it confused me and it makes me wonder how people really see me.

The fact is that I really have no idea why I am experiencing these feelings. Maybe I never will. Evidently, finding this answer will have to be part of the journey I am on.

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