Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saving our children

It is the one year anniversary of my friend’s daughter’s death. Whether she died from an overdose of drugs by accident or on purpose will never be known. What is known is that she did abuse drugs. Her entire life her mom tried to help her only child in any way she could. The end result: as hard as she may have tried, she couldn’t save her. She now lives with the guilt that only a mother can have, a guilt quite undeserved.

Her story reminds me of two stories in my book showing two very different guilt reactions. One dealt with a diabetic son who couldn’t accept that he was different (in fact, he wasn’t different but couldn’t see past his disease). His mother tried to get him help at the City of Hope in California as well as doctors across the country , tried to help him plan his meals sensibly, and tried to support him in any way she could. But the son would have none of it and eventually ended his life. His mom said the diabetes killed him, not physically, but emotionally. Although she grieved for a long time, she did not feel guilt-ridden in the end. You can only do so much, she said. She had to think of the rest of her family who needed her. Nothing would bring her son back. She knew she had to survive and do it for the rest of her family.

Quite opposite to this story, another mother to this day says she will always feel guilt in the death of her son. She was having problems with him and sent him to a camp for troubled teens. He died there from negligent care when he was ill, and she was never told he was ill because the camp people thought he was lying. She had a difficult time rebuilding her life without her son. She believes she sent him to his death unknowingly, out of concern, love and with the best of intentions. Although she knows she’s not responsible for his death, meshing her intellect with her heart is very difficult for her.

I chose these two different stories for my book to show that everyone handles guilt and grief differently, and there is no right or wrong way to deal with it, but deal with it you should. Do what is best for you. For most people it takes months, even years. Current research shows that the grief period following a sudden death is intense for three to four years and is never complete. If counseling is suggested, do it. If going to a bereaved parent’s meeting is helpful, do it. Whatever will work, do it.

My daughter died a sudden death in a car accident. That was almost 14 years ago. I still grieve. I will always grieve; however, I do not feel any guilt of having left anything undone. We were very close; we communicated well; we understood each other perfectly. One could say, we were good friends. It was a comfort to know there were no angry words and no regrets for having to set things straight. I try to remember the good times, the happy memories of the time we had together. That is how I fill my mind now.

Human beings have an almost innate conviction that they should be able to protect those whom they love. While that is impossible and irrational, it is difficult to shake off. Our inability to save our children generates guilt. Anything we do to get through our shattering tragedies is okay. As I have said, there are no right or wrong ways, just each person’s way. And that is the best way because it comes from the heart.

1 comment:

  1. Bless you, Sandy. I am so glad I emailed you about the possibility of another Now Childless conference and you had this link on that email!

    It helps so much to hear how you are coping and to feel validated for the pain I experience. It is so hard to try to continue friendships with people who have expectations for me when they do not have a clue what is going on in my heart and head.

    Devin died "a sudden death". She was hit by a car while riding her bike. I identify with several individuals of whom you spoke.

    Thank you, thank you. I will keep reading.