After Arlyn died by suicide, I was swallowed up with self-blame and guilt. I thought back to a million things I believed that I had done wrong or said wrong, and a million things I believed that I should have done or should have said but did not. Sins of commission and sins of omission. Anyone who disagreed with me about how I failed Arlyn put up a barrier, so I would not discuss my feelings with them any more. Consequently, I became more isolated.
Over time, however, once I worked through the initial pain and grief, on a mental level, I began to understand that I had done the best I knew how to do at the time, based on who I was and where I was in my life. I loved Arlyn infinitely, so if I could have done better for her, I would have done better.
But knowing this on a mental level was not the same as believing it in my heart. It took time to reach that point, but I did, one tiny step at a time. I reached that point by talking out loud at support groups meetings and to my husband. I reached that point by writing about my feelings, unleashed, uncensored writing. I reached that point by going to the cemetery and yelling to Arlyn. I reached that point by allowing myself to cry and cry and cry and cry (or maybe I should say howl and wail, because at times, that's what did.)
I eventually realized that guilt began to change to regret. (Guilt is self-punishing; regret is not.) And as I continued to let go of the guilt for one thing after another, slowly, but surely, I gradually moved into a mode where I started to forgive myself, forgive myself for only being human, because I understood that everything I had done or not done was motivated by love.
Forgiving myself allowed me to have compassion on me. Feeling compassion for me then allowed me to feel greater compassion for others, because I understood that they, too, carry guilt, and they, too, did the best they could at the time, based on who they were and where they were in life.
I'm sending you gentle hugs today, Johnsmom, and I hope that your journey today brings you a step closer to peace.