We had a great time this past weekend. We joined some family and friends for a celebration 'Dia de Sao Martino' (St. Martin's Day), Portuguese style. There was plenty of food, new wine and music. My husband and I really enjoyed the evening.
Today in class we discussed bereaved parents and how it is the worst pain imaginable. We discussed some of the things that each parent faces and what is faced together as a couple. In an earlier posting I discussed the statistics of failed marriages after the death of a child, so I won't go into it again. But one of topics struck a cord. Guilt!
Wow, it's been four years, I can't really still be feeling any guilt, I'm over that! Yet, am I really? As I began to say, we enjoyed ourselves this weekend, it was good to get out, and have some fun. We danced all night, laughed and joked, and enjoyed each others company. Yet every time I got up to dance with my husband, I kept thinking of Rachel. She was on my mind all evening. She loved to dance and as I watched the young couples twirling around the dance floor, I couldn't help but think of Rachel.
Then you start to wonder, should I really be having fun. Should I be laughing and joking around? Rachel is not here, this isn't right, I should really not be having this much fun, after all I am a grieving mother. But yet we did have fun, we did laugh, we did dance and we enjoyed the evening.
It's funny how we look at things, how we perceive life around us, how simple acts like dancing and laughing, cause you to question what is right or wrong. There is no right or wrong, and how we act all depends on us, who we are.
My professor asked if I had felt guilty, or still feel guilty, and it made me think and realize that sometimes I do. Sometimes, I feel it is not right that I should be happy, that there is joy in my life, that I can move forward. Of course some days and events make it worse than others. For example, when my grandson was born, I was ecstatic, and so sad at the same time. I felt as if I had been deprived of something critical, it was unfair that my daughter could not be present for my grandson's birth. Worse yet, my grandson would grow up not knowing is auntie.
So many emotions course through our bodies after we have lost a loved one. Special events, or simply going out to dinner with family or friends, seems to be a betrayal of our loved one. We find ourselves feeling guilty because we are celebrating, we have gone out, we are smiling and happy, it is not fair.
When these feelings of guilt strike, I mull over them for a while, and then start to think, what would my daughter really want me to be doing. Would she expect me to mope around, shoulders drooped and looking all forlorn, or would she expect me to be enjoying my life. Rachel was full of life, everything was an adventure of sorts, she got herself into trouble on occasion, but enjoyed her life for the most part. She always had a smile on her face.
So I let go of the guilt, and begin to enjoy myself, and offer up my enjoyment and fun to her memory, thinking of her always. This helps me cope with the guilt and other feelings, and lets me share with Rachel, allowing her to be part of my activities. And somehow, she becomes very present. This past Saturday, while we were sitting at the table enjoying the wonderful food, Rachel's name came up several times. It was as if my fears that I should not be having fun were allayed, it was okay, I could have fun.
My husband turned 50 a couple of years after Rachel's death, and my children and I were thinking of have a bash to celebrate. Even before we could say anything to anyone, my husband said he did not want anything big. Rachel was gone, and he could not have a party without her being present. We celebrated quietly with my children and son-in-law, and then my husband and I took off for a mini-vacation.
Was it guilt, yes! My husband did not feel it was okay to have a party without Rachel being present. It was not right, his little girl would not be there, so there was no way on earth that he wanted a party. We understood, we accepted my husband's wishes and we allowed him to cope as only he could.
Guilt, however, like any emotion, should not be a dominating factor in your life. It should not govern your life, it should not stifle you, you need to live as you would be expected to do so. That is what your loved one would want and expect from you. Nothing more!
What we need to begin to do, is let go, to allow ourselves to forgive ourselves, to look at what may be causing us to feel guilty. As I wondered about Saturday evening, and being out, I realized that my moment of guilt was caused by a feeling that I should not be having this much fun. It was also feeling as if I were being judge for my behavior, as if somehow I was wearing a label that said, 'look I am a bereaved mother, my daughter died only four years ago.'
But of course there are no labels, only the ones we give ourselves. So it is up to us to remove them, to free ourselves from our own shortcomings and misconceptions. We need to live, it's okay to live, we were born to live life, to brush ourselves off when adversity strikes, and to gain strength from life's trials. We need to allow ourselves to become fully alive, we need to bloom like the flowers, knowing all too well that the bloom will fade, and the petals will fall. The most important thing to remember is that like the flower, we shed beauty in the world around us, even if only for a brief time.
Keep in mind that unresolved guilt can be destructive, it does not allow for healing, leaving you to blame yourself. Believing that you could somehow have prevented the death. But you couldn't have stopped it from happening, and all the guilt in the world, won't bring your loved one back.
So learn to live, let go of any guilt, and cherish the memories (fond ones, bad memories can add to one's guilt). That is what you want for you, that is what your loved one would want from you, so go out, laugh, enjoy life and dance, and know that your loved one is always with you.
Always remember the love!
Blessings! and until we meet again.