It’s not your fault. My brain has said that on repeat since 2013. Most days it believes itself. Every once in awhile, it goes to dark places. I wish my entire heart could believe it was true, but there’s a Benny shaped hole that makes me doubt myself.
Everyone talks about grief=sadness or grief=anger. Grief=Guilt. Because no matter how many times you’ve told somebody that you love them, knowing that you can’t again brings on the guilt. Because even though deep down you know you would do anything to get them back and protect them, you can’t. And some part of you will feel guilty. Even though control is an illusion. Even though it’s not your fault.
What is fault when it comes to grief anyway? Does fault even matter when you blame yourself? Here I am almost 10 years after the accident still and I’m still harping on guilt.
My word for 2022 was ‘grace.’ I needed to learn grace when it comes to my inner monologue. I needed to allow myself to be accountable for the things that I can control and have grace for the things I cannot. I focused very hard on being kind to myself when I didn’t get something accomplished that I wanted to. I learned to not berate myself over silly, innocuous things.
Letting go of those little things helped me to start to tackle the bigger things. I had long ago determined that control is an illusion. It certainly helped me to reframe my feelings around Benny’s death. But even with that, the guilt was still there. Because what parent wouldn’t feel guilt when their child dies in their arms?
I was mirandized in the hospital. I had given Benny one last kiss, tried to memorize his smell and was whisked away for X Rays. I was wheeled back into a room where everyone was panicking. The police were there and wanted to question me. I think that was the first moment where my shock frozen mind registered that I could be blamed. I could be arrested. I could be tried. And it all just seemed surreal. And none of it really mattered, because the worst had already happened. But that was the first moment where the reality of the situation took hold and the guilt crept in.
The police were doing their job and were truly kind to our family. Days after the accident they reconstructed it in our driveway. They told my sister that it took my car 7 seconds to roll from the top of the driveway to the bottom. 7 fucking seconds. It seemed like a lifetime in that moment. And I already imagined all of the other ways I could have handled our situation. Why hadn’t I jumped back into the car? Or the stone? Why hadn’t I just put Benny upstairs for his nap? Why did we live on a fucking hill? Why wasn’t I able to save my child? It was a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. But knowing about those 7 seconds helped. A little.
I held so much anger towards myself. Even while rationally knowing that 7 seconds is not a long time to make a decision. I thought about all of the stories of the parents that shielded their children, or miraculously saved them somehow. It was as if their adrenaline turned them superhuman. I would get super frustrated that that wasn’t our story.
The guilt was always there. It brought it’s friend’s insecurity and doubt along with it. It was there in the background, making me second guess my decisions. Making me not like myself. I would second guess my parenting. I would also second guess my ability to handle any kind of stressful situation.
Like everything else in grief, it changes. You learn to live with it. You embrace it as a part of yourself. You move forward.
So in trying to retrain my brain to be a little bit kinder to me, I had a bit of a revelation. I’m not even sure what I was doing, maybe folding laundry, doing the dishes? It was a house chore that I got lost in my head so that it didn’t seem so tedious.
I must have been thinking about the incredible connections I have made since Benny died. I was thinking about the moms that reached out to us in the early days. I was thinking about all of the incredible people that surrounded us in our home and took care of us when we didn’t even know how to take our next breath. I was thinking about the incredible people that I used to work with who swooped in and told me they would get me through this. I was thinking about the friends and family that stepped up and held us. I was thinking about all of the new people that have shown up and continue to show up and support us. I was thinking about all of the other grief moms and dads that we have met along this journey. I was thinking about all of my people at Hope Lives Here and how they have shaped my grief.
And I came to this summation. We are surrounded by incredibly kind people. Good people. And not one of them would ever point a finger at me. So why am I wasting this energy blaming myself? If I was the villain I had made myself out to be in my head, these incredible folks would not be in my life. They would not support me. They would not love me. This was my simple Aha moment. Nearly 10 years later.
Now when I feel myself going down the path of guilt I try to remember this moment. I try to remember how freeing this moment felt for me. I try to remember all of the good people we are surrounded by and I hold that super close.
Thank you if you are one of those people. Your kindness and your goodness are like a needle and a thread holding me together. And helping me to learn a little grace for myself.❤️