Guilt, Guilt, Guilt

The term “survivor’s guilt” has been mentioned these past two weeks since I lost my dear friend, Amy.  When I hear the term I immediately think of someone feeling guilty for being alive when their loved one has passed on.  I imagine them off in a corner somewhere thinking it should have been me, it should have been me.  I haven’t felt this way.  I had a moment of thinking why do I get to be here and what am I supposed to do, but never thought it should have been me.  Mark and the girls need me.  It would be selfish to think that.

I do believe I am experiencing “survivor’s guilt” in a different way.  Right now, I seem to be drowning in guilt.  I am regretting all of the missed opportunities and the stupid excuses (not just with Amy).  The girls are tired.  The drive is too far.  There are too many people to see.  It’s too hard.  There is not enough time. I feel bad for choosing the wrong words.  Even after apologies are exchanged and accepted, I can’t stop flogging myself for putting them out there in the first place.  I feel guilty for the things I want and the things I don’t want.  I feel wrong for the love I do feel and the love I wish I felt.  I feel like a horrible mother because I am lacking the energy it takes to turn off the TV and talk or play.  I answer Callee’s demands because it’s easier than trying to teach her to ask politely.   I can’t stay on top of the mess in my house and taking one look around makes me more angry at myself.  I feel guilty for some of the things that I have written and for the stuff that just won’t get on the page.

In the last two weeks, I have told a lot of people that I’d call them.  I can’t seem to pick up the phone.  I feel guilty for wanting to crawl into a shell, just when I’ve been reminded how important relationships are.  I feel bad for being attached and detached.  There are relationships in my life that are in desperate need of healing and I’m too tired and angry to do the work.  I feel guilty for how much pain I am experiencing at this loss because I know as much as it hurts there are a number of people that are hurting more.  I feel guilty for almost everything.

Some months ago I had a conversation with a friend about guilt.  We concluded that guilt is a useless emotion and gets us no where.  I believe that now, especially as I am consumed by it.  It is paralyzing me and making it hard to be in my own skin.  I’m writing this now in hopes that by owning it, I can make it to the next step of letting it go.


11 thoughts on “Guilt, Guilt, Guilt

  1. Renee November 9, 2009 / 8:06 am

    Omigosh, Leslee!! You mean you’re NOT perfect? I was totally under the impression you were. Now that I know the truth, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.


    It’s OK to feel guilt. We all do. I don’t think it’s even a useless emotion because it makes you think and evaluate things. But don’t let it paralyze you.

    I’m sure that Amy’s parents and possibly her husband hurt more than you, but that’s because of the nature of who Amy was to them. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you to be hurting. I think if something happened to my best friend, I would crawl in a hole and never come out. You’re handling this pretty damned good compared to how many other people might.

  2. Laurie November 9, 2009 / 9:28 am

    Guilt is a way of our mind and body telling us things that we need to change that behavior- It can lead to depression and feelings of being overwhelmed if not dealt with and can consume you like you said. We all have done so many things in our lives that make us feel just awful – but everything is an experience that makes us who we are.. When you feel guilty – find the person or thing that is making you feel like that , say your sorry (mean it) or stop doing that thing (whatever it is) and move on – Life is a lesson – and people are forgiving and so are your kids! Chin up!

  3. Leigh November 9, 2009 / 9:29 am

    If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were a southern, Catholic woman. Welcome to the club. Change what you can, let the rest go, and give yourself a break.

    Then go out and get yourself one of those Christmas villages, you know, the kind with the fake batting snow and all the happy skaters? Set it up in all it’s glory and enjoy all its perfect, Norman Rockwell happiness because that’s the only way you’re ever going to be able to create 100% perfection in your life. As women we feel it is our responsibility to make everyone happy and to make all of their disappointments go away. This is an impossible task, and not our job. What is our job is to do our best and forgive ourselves for the rest, as we would do for anyone else around us.

    I’m sorry about your friend. What you’re feeling is normal, but try not to let it take over. Go out and do something nice for someone today. The cure for depression is in doing for others.

    Wish I could give you a hug.

  4. Fred November 9, 2009 / 9:46 am

    Leslee, We all miss opportunities to say I love you. But those events are now in the past. Just for today, you can begin to show love to friends, family, and to every living thing.

  5. lesleehorner November 9, 2009 / 10:11 am

    I guess it is only useless when you are feeling guilty for the things that just can not be changed. It is helpful in making steps going forward to live differently. I am definitely feeling inspired to do more. I wrote this on Friday and today I am feeling less submerged. Each day is different from the one before.

    And Leigh, I have to say if I went and bought one of those villages, I would feel soooo guilty. Haha!

    Thank you guys for your support… It was very helpful to Own up to my feelings…

  6. Rob November 9, 2009 / 2:30 pm

    Hi Leslie! You have done an EXCELLENT job of feeling guilty, and I commend you for that! :~) In fact, I think you are even better at it than I am, which is saying a LOT! I would suggest, however, that you keep the ‘big picture’ in mind. Which is that if God doesn’t condemn you for what you did in the past, or didn’t do, then maybe you should be a bit easier on yourself. The reality is that God has forgiven you even BEFORE you did, or didn’t do, whatever it is that you’re feeling guilty for. So, if the Big Kahuna is OK with you just the way you are, maybe you can be OK with you also. The only way these things can hurt you is if you carry them with you into the present moment.

    Now, on the other hand, if you feel like you should continue to beat yourself up for not yet being as perfect as the rest of us are :~), then that is OK too. IMVHO I believe that when you do a bit more healing (and you do know some techniques for that) from your recent loss, you will be able to put into practice some of the lessons you’ve learned from all this. Why don’t you start right now and do something small towards that end? Try just one tiny thing and see where it takes you…..

    • lesleehorner November 9, 2009 / 2:43 pm

      Rob- A few times in the last two weeks a moment from our book group has popped into my head. I was talking (at group one day) about how lucky I was never to have had tragedy touch my life. Your wife said “you better knock on wood.” My response was “well at least now I have the tools necessary to deal with tragedy when it does happen.” So I definitely am aware of the tools I have in my box. I am using them at times and at other times I am just letting myself feel and wallow. Thanks for reading this moment of wallowing and reminding me of the tools!

      • Rob November 9, 2009 / 3:38 pm

        Your situation reminds me, in some ways, of the story of Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. He was a Prince living on his father’s estate who had never experienced any of the ‘tragedies’ of life (poverty, sin, death, disease, etc., etc.). Then one day he left the compound and encountered these things. The shock was so great he decided to leave all he had, including his family, and roam around the country until he could find an enlightened master to explain how all this could be. To make a long story short, after 20 years of searching he had found no one who could explain these things to him.
        So he sat down under the Bodhi tree and meditated until he received the answer from God, ie, from within himself (the Kingdom of God is within you…). I won’t go any further with this other than to say that now that you’ve encountered the humanly-unpleasant things of ‘this world,’ your goal may become one of figuring out how to enter what Jesus referred to as “My Kingdom” which is “not of this world.”

        PS If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha”.

        May You Be Perfectly Peaceful.

  7. Kasey November 9, 2009 / 5:19 pm

    “Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change.” ~Iyanla Vanzant

    Sending lots of love and hugs your way! Time heals all things…and you will not feel this way forever. xoxo – k

  8. Laurie (@GoodByeGracie) November 16, 2009 / 2:48 am

    Guilt sucks. Flat out sucks. But, it also shows us how to forgive ourselves–even though forgiving ourselves is, perhaps, the most difficult thing to do for ourselves. I used to feel buried under a mountain of guilt…it was immense and paralyzing. But, when I was trying to work it out I realized that I had to make all those guilty feelings work for me instead of against me. I realized that when we have feelings of guilt we are presented with an opportunity to make choices. Even though we cannot change the cause of our guilt we can change how we respond to it–or how to make it work so it is at the very least not paralyzing. When I was in the throws of the very worst part of being swallowed alive by guilt I started to channel it into a mantra–I did the best I knew how in that moment. We, women mostly, become so wrapped up with what we must do (be 1000 different things to 1000 different people) that we forget we cannot possibly do it all. Yet we feel this guilt–society seems to want us to feel this guilt or at least place these expectations upon ourselves–and we are our own worst enemy at times. Sometimes we do drop the ball and just flat out mess up but those mistakes, the things we feel are mistakes do not make the whole of us. And because the weight of those mistakes feels so toxic we have to work to forgive–no bargaining (I will do better next time) no self-deprecation (I hate myself for this); just flat out no strings attached forgiveness (I made this mistake and I am worthy of forgiveness from myself.) The same kind of forgiveness we accept from our friends and family we need to give to ourselves.

    *hugs* to you.

    • lesleehorner November 16, 2009 / 4:53 pm

      I am working through it and trying to turn it into a positive thing. I have a bad habit of feeling guilty for silly things and that’s what I’m working on most of all.

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