Thursday, June 30, 2011

Guilt

Thomas and I were driving to New Orleans to display my new book, Alone and Alive, a practical guide for dealing with the death of your husband, at the American Library Association conference, when we began discussing family history. Among the stories I told was one my Mother had related to me about her childhood.

My Mother and her father began going to the “cowboy movies” every Saturday night when she was still a very young child. When the weather was good they would walk the few blocks to the theater in the town square. It was a special bond that developed between them as this pattern continued even into Mother’s early teens.

Then came a Saturday night, when Mother was 14, that changed that. Mother was invited to a sleep over with friends. At an age where teens begin to separate from the family, she chose to go to the sleep over, rather than the cowboy movies. Her father’s feelings were hurt, his little girl wasn’t going to the movies with him.

At 5 in the morning Mother was awakened. Her mother had come to take her home. The unthinkable had happened, her father had a heart attack and died. Mother was hit with terrible guilt! At 14 she believed that her father had died of a broken heart!

Guilt is a part of grieving. Of course, as an adult, my Mother understood that her father did not die of a broken heart, and that her decision did not cause his heart attack. But for nearly all of us there is the opportunity for guilt - “if only I had...”, “The last thing I said was....”, and many other. Just remember the only thing you can do with guilt is learn from it. Treat you family as if you might never see them again. Don’t give guilt an opportunity.

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