photograph of art--a blue and black heart, multi-layered, representing ache and sadness
Blue Heart

Guilt in Grief

That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back  

Should've, would've, could've, 
If I'd only come to see, 
That might I future forward live
To see all eternity.

That I might know when and where somehow, 
And here and now then see,
To erase the dark and stay the day,
To bring back you to me.

If only and what if now child,
And why couldn't I just see,
To hold you close forever,
Rewind time, just you and me.

That darkness might not permeate
My heart now and yours then,
That all of love could sweep time back
To bring back you again. 

©Beth Brown, 2021 

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Parents of children who die by suicide often battle an
added type of guilt. Even if they do not blame themselves
for not directly intervening in the suicidal act, they often feel
guilt over some perceived mistake in raising their children.
“Where did I go wrong?” “I pushed them too hard,” and
“If we hadn’t gotten divorced…” are just a few on the list of
self-recriminations.

But parents need to remind themselves
that, while they have great influence over their children’s
lives, they do not personally create every aspect of their children’s being, as a sculptor carves a statue. From their earliest
years, children are shaped by an assortment of outside influences
beyond the control of parents. Even children and
teenagers have to bear responsibility for their actions.

Jeffrey Jackson, SoS-A Handbook for Suicide Survivors, American Association of Suicidology

Question 1. Do you believe you have done anything wrong that caused the death of your son or daughter by suicide?

For the first time in 4 years (as of Saturday, June 25th, Dylan’s memorial date), I can answer this question “NO!!!!—only if adoring, loving, cherishing and sacrificing oh so much can kill.

 
NO!!!!—only if death is something I can control, only if I had failed in letting my son become the amazing, beautiful, and extraordinary young man he was and in the process, become independent in who he was.


NO!!!—only if I can control illness around the world, for all children everywhere; only if I can conjure up cures for all disease including illnesses that we cannot see: sadness, mental illness, addiction, depression, alcoholism, and the list goes on.

Red Ground Roses in Weeping Cherry Tree

Question 2. Have you forgiven yourself for anything you believe you did or did not do wrong? If so, what?

Yes. I raised Dylan much of his life as a single mom. Society can blame single parents in harsh ways (hence the “stigma” of suicide). It’s helped to learn there are no guarantees in life. It’s also helped to be part of an international community of parents who have lost their child to suicide. I am not alone. In speaking with other bereaved parents, I see that while we come from all walks of life, we all share a deep love of our child. Heartache and questioning are universal: Guilt felt by a parent who loses a child to suicide does not abide by international borders.

Yes. Mental illness is illness, doctors don’t yet have answers, let alone “cures,” disease ebbs and flows across all borders—be they physical or mental illness. For a long time, I believed I made Dylan this way, that all my creativity and brilliance of a life lived in extremes, not by choice, but because of illness, destroyed him. But Dylan’s depression, fueled by a reckless coming-of-age youth, drove him to a despair over which I had no control.

Photo of 2 red rose buds and a red about to bloom
Red Roses

Question 3. If you have not forgiven yourself, will you accept compassion even if you cannot forgive yourself?


Yes, and I think we must sit with one another in grief, rocking, holding, bearing up those who cannot even remember to breathe. From love comes love. From heart connection comes whatever healing might be possible here. From holding on to one another, we walk courageously together towards living in memory and honor–and with love–for our children.

Related Posts

Man writing on paper with pen

Self-Blame and Guilt-I Couldn’t Save My Son

Self-Blame and Guilt: I Couldn’t Save My Son I can’t stop thinking about how much he suffered—and my own inability to save him.Lori Gottlieb, “I Blame Myself for My Son’s Death,” The Atlantic, September 7, 2020 It’s been nearly 10 years since I lost my only son to suicide. Had someone suggested in my first…

Keep reading
A photograph of a national park with a mountain in the background and pine trees in the foreground

“When Someone Takes His Own Life”-Depression and Suicide

“When Someone Takes His Own Life” Excerpt from “The Healing of Sorrow” Norman Vincent Peale In many ways, this seems the most tragic form of death. Certainly itcan entail more shock and grief for those who are left behind than anyother. And often the stigma of suicide is what rests most heavily onthose left behind.…

Keep reading

Recent Posts

Green Lemon Balm in Summer

Grandparents’ Grief After Suicide Loss of Grandchild

A Grandparent’s Grief The Family Table I was with my mother when she purchased the sturdy, long, pine table. With two leaves, one for each end of the table, this table would be big enough for our small, close-knit family. My sister and her family, including her two children, plus my parents, plus room now […]

Pink ground roses with yellow centers surrounded by green leaves

Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors

Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors by Iris M. Bolton (Especially for newly bereaved parents) 2. Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until YOU are satisfied with partial answers. 3. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but that all your feelings are normal. […]

Close Up photo of Peach Daylily in Full Bloom in Summer

Matins: Reflections on Hope After Loss

Matins I. Somewhere, out at the edges, the night Is turning and the waves of darkness Begin to brighten the shore of dawn.   The heavy dark falls back to earth And the freed air goes wild with light, The heart fills with fresh, bright breath And thoughts stir to give birth to color.   II. I arise […]

5 Ways Suicide Grief Is Different

5 Ways Suicide Grief Is Different Way 1: Blaming I received many compassionate words, cards, embraces, and acts of service when my son died. Dylan’s friends and family flocked to our house the morning of his death. They brought pastries from a local bakery, coffee, and huge condolences. Dylan’s friends gathered in our driveway, sequestered […]

Memorial Day-Echoes that Haunt

Here Comes the 25th Most days, I cannot imagine my life without my son. Perhaps this is why starting my day is so difficult. It isn’t always like this, and after two years and almost 11 months, I am sometimes able to greet my day with gratitude and balance, a centeredness that defies my tragic […]

Mr. Lincoln tea hybrid red rose in full bloom in June photographclose up

Get new posts delivered to your inbox.

By Beth Brown

Rememberer of dreams. Whisperer of gardens green.
At the whim of "Most Beloved" and a hot cup of tea.
I live life between, straddled here now and then,
My continuity through writing--
Pen dripping ink, mind swirling confused,
Love lingering still, and Most Beloved's purring soothes.

Blogger at "Gardens at Effingham" (where cats do the talking) and "My Forever Son" (where a mother's heart runs deep after losing her son to suicide)
Musician. Writer. Literary Connoisseur.
At the whim of a calico cat and a strong cup of tea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s