One area so many mothers struggle with is guilt, especially those who experience the loss of a baby/child. We want to address this struggle in this post. It will help mothers quietly battling guilt for living life and experiencing joy to know they are not alone. Other moms silently battle this as well. Whether it is the startling first time you really laugh after losing your child, or whether you have experienced the healing balm of joy for years, share your thoughts on this week’s post.
Hmmm…this is a hard one for me in that it really hits home. And I’ve decided to post this here on my more private blog as I don’t think I could really share it all over at the family blog where I had been writing. Not many of my IRL friends and family know about this one. There are some things I’m just not ready to to share with a wider audience.
So, guilt, um, yeah. Where do I start? I actually think that this experience of Naomi’s death has opened my eyes to the ways I have let guilt motivate so much of what I do in my life, even before she was born. So in a way, I feel like one of the gifts she has given me is the opportunity to break free from some of the guilt that I had been living under, like the guilt of not meeting others’ expectations, guilt in perceived failures in relationships, guilt over my body not looking the way it “should” because I’m not taking care of it the best. These are just a few of the areas of guilt, not related directly to Naomi, that my grief has brought into focus. For I discovered that in the early months when I was physically still recovering from the intensity of our eight week hospital stay, recovering from birth, fighting multiple illnesses, and trying to figure out how to navigate the waters of grief, feeling guilty about a lot of the things I used to feel guilt about brought me into a deeper, darker hole and was a waste of energy! I found that in many areas I was holding myself to an unrealistic goal and then heaping guilt on myself for not meeting those goals. My desire for healing was deeper than my drive to meet expectations of others or myself and so I realized I had to learn how to care for myself and be gentle to myself. I had a few close friends/family who over and over reminded me to be gentle with myself. That was one of the best pieces of advice I received in the months after Naomi died.
As far a guilt specifically surrounding Naomi’s death, I certainly have struggled with it and it is not something I feel I have overcome yet. There is a part of me that wonders if we unnecessarily prolonged her life. She had some very intensive interventions. There was a period of time where it was hard for me to find any joy in reflecting on her life because of how difficult it was for her, how much suffering she had to go through…and while medically they tried to regulate her pain, I have no way of knowing how much she suffered and felt. Watching my baby cry silently on the ventilator is one of the (many) horrible experiences I saw her go through and her body was so broken by the time she finally passed. But ultimately I keep going back to the fact that we made the best decisions we could at the time with the information we had and with much prayer. One of my prayers was that we would not be in a position where we had to make a medical decision to directly end her life, but that God would allow her to go to Him when it was time. And I am grateful that I feel that prayer was answered. She made it clear at a certain point that the end was near. So all we could do was hold her and love her, which we did, until the end.
I also still struggle with guilt over the fact that my body bore a child with such a severe defect. I know in my head this is not my fault, but I still struggle with it in my darker moments. And this feeling can often snowball into guilt over how I’m grieving, how I’m not moving through my grief quickly enough or in the right way, or how I am still so weak. Those feelings haven’t come as strongly lately, but I don’t think I’ve completely overcome them yet either. I think they’ve been more back-burnered for the time.
For quite some time I didn’t know how I could every feel deep true joy again. I still feel like I have to choose to believe that because God is the source of all joy I can and will experience it again. There have been moments of joy, many of them, over these last months, but often it is a joy that makes my heart ache because I know a deep sorrow and that sorrow illuminates the joy in a way it never has before. So I think joy feels differently now than it did before Naomi left. I think that maybe what I’ve been longing to regain wasn’t joy but instead innocence, the innocence and naivete that getting pregnant usually means bringing home a healthy baby with lots and lots of happiness. And that is an innocence I will never have again even if one day we try again for another baby. I would say that I am still looking for joy, I’m choosing to count the gifts God gives to me daily. But it is a battle and sometimes I struggle with why this life has to be so hard and what my purpose is for living here on this earth. I know that part of my purpose is to be momma to two little boys, who many days are the source of the joy that is in my life. Some days, though, I wish we could all just go to heaven and be together, complete, as a family.
I wish I had a way to end this that would bring a happy conclusion to it all, but I don’t. I do trust, though, that God is with me and that He is teaching me how to dance again, a different sort of dance, a dance of joy and sorrow. I will close with the Psalm that Kelly quoted in her blog this week that has really spoken to my heart.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.