Jenny my favorite counselor- Provident, Inc. St. Louis, Missouri

About Guilt and Shame:

As a survivor I recommend you concentrate (as much as possible) on being kind to yourself. Over time I found that I was with the majority of survivors that over-rated their grasp and the control of the relationship that is now over.

In those early months, I spent time with five counselors (one a professional, three professionals that were PhDs and personal friends, and the fifth was the professional overseer of our survivor support group.)

Still, I marvel at folks that counsel full time as their livelihood. Along with our sessions, the counselors referred me to a number of books that they had found helpful regarding suicide. In certain ways, we were learning from each other.  With a lot of other resources, these times allowed us to get better . . . together.

 In the first years (and I just ran across my notes from those sessions,) I felt and recorded that no one could be more responsible for the suicide than me - which is a common survivor assessment. 

I would be told over and over to forgive myself. This concept did not click with me. I kept wondering, how a person could forgive themselves? For the longest, I dug in my heels . . . forgiving myself just seemed too illogical.  Notes record thinking that losing a child would add to that burden . . . because, no matter their age, they are still your child. These barriers held me prisoner for way too long.  Now, I realize that every loss is bounded by sharp edges.

When I was alone, I would focus only on things that had not gone smoothly for us. It was as though my relational shortfall (or certainly all of them summed together) would grade me a failure.

In those early times, I would focus on “us - over the years.” Then I would shift to that Rebecca, my wife, would not be returning. In successive years I would become aware of the complexity of knowing what another person thinks or what they are capable of doing.  Things that never crossed my mind before.

During this period I heard this story. “If you take a cup (any size) and begin to fill it a drop at a time . . . at some point, it will reach the brim. Additional drops will actually have it brim above the edge of the rims. In any case, there will be one final drop that causes the cup to overflow.”

At that point an argument starts . . . was it the last drop or one of the bazillion ones that proceeded it?  The truth is . . . no one can answer this question because it is the cumulative assessment over time and the effect of too many drops.

 Applying this story to the event of suicide, no one can ever truly know. Yet, we are driven to (and do from time to time) make this judgment. Any explanation we rendered is based on an unknowable number of drops and all manner of resulting assumptions. These assumptions could be 100% correct . . . but . . . then they could be totally incorrect.  In this life, it is an eternally unanswerable question.

To change our way of thinking is not an instant thing . . . we all resist change.  Over time I had to bring the constant ruminations to an end.  Here almost two decades later, I still will hear or read something that takes me back to the “Why question.” But now, the ruminations will quickly fade away . . . without conflict.

To blame myself is a product of guilt (and with suicide, there is the added element of shame.)  Guilt for all the things I could have done differently and shame for the failures of not doing them.

Guilt and shame coexist and are intertwined.

For me, I had to adjust my expectations down to a reasonable level. Today, I have accepted that I am just not that smart (in this arena,) and probably not much of a leader back in those times. Now, I see myself as being ordinary and nothing more.

If you ask, why I don’t feel guilt like I use to? I put my analysis and judgment tendencies in neutral. I had to let them go. This was all about dreams that vanished and expectations that can never be met.  I consciously had to adjust and let them go.

This was not a flash event. It has matured over the years. - blessings, dJ

FHAS-About Guilt & Shame V7-G-1119.2017