Guilt – Part two

The next morning, I did not feel stable. All I could think was that I can’t survive without exoneration.

I spoke again with the metabolics specialist who we’ve known since Brody was diagnosed in the NICU. She reassured me that it was very likely more than his sugars that led to his death and that regardless, we did everything we knew to do. We couldn’t blame ourselves.

I prayed with friends and told myself God loves me despite my failings.

But I kept replaying Brody’s last night and morning in my mind. Everything I did was wrong. I tried to feed him before I went to bed, but he didn’t want the bottle. I SHOULD HAVE TRIED AGAIN! In the morning, I saw myself going into his room to wake him up. I SHOULD HAVE WOKE HIM UP SOONER!

When I finally saw a psychologist late that morning, she listened as I explained this torment.

“I go into Brody’s room sometimes,” I confessed, “and tell him that I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry mommy let him die. I’m so sorry I killed him.”

She responded: “You need to apply logic to this thinking.”

I thought to myself: Isn’t that what I’m doing? Haven’t I come to the realization of my guilt through logic?

She didn’t think so. She explained it as “distorted, emotional thinking.”

I heard that and the pit began to widen. I could look up. I could see all the people on the surface, encouraging me to come back to the light. But I was still unsure. I feared that if they saw me in the light they would despise me. I wanted them to know I was desperately sorry. That I despised myself, that I knew I was an unforgivable failure.

I told the psychologist exactly what I thought I should have done differently. I told her my moments of failure and what I wished I could change if life were at all fair and I could go back in time for a second chance.

But I still couldn’t convince her that I was a negligent mother. And Jensen, sitting next to me, didn’t believe it either. I told him how I was terrified I would lose his love – that he would never forgive me for letting this happen to our baby.

Jensen just wanted me to see what he saw. He didn’t see me as a failure, not at all. He saw me as an attentive, loving mother and he wanted me to see that too. Whatever led to Brody’s rapid decline that morning, it wasn’t my fault. I needed to set myself free.

Alright, I finally reasoned, maybe I won’t let guilt destroy me. And I began to crawl up from the darkness, back to the light of love.

On the way home from our appointment, I saw a text from a friend: When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:18-19.

That was for me in that moment. Amen, I thought, and read the verse to Jensen.

The rest of the day was a struggle, but I felt like I had the tools I needed to regain control of my thoughts. I repeated in my mind the phrase “distorted, emotional thinking,” like a kid writing lines on the chalkboard after school.

That night, I told Jensen how scared I was of guilt; how I saw it as a pit that would always be in my life. I would need to be careful every day not to let myself fall in.

“But it will get smaller,” he assured me confidently. “I know it feels like a chasm now – hard to avoid – but eventually it will be like a little golf ball hole.”

He was smiling. I smiled too. I thought of a golf course and the tiny holes that no one ever falls in. I felt braver.

“Yes,” I agreed with him. “Guilt will get smaller.”

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