“When am I going to stop blaming myself?”
She was desperate for relief from the weight of guilt. Her son died the year before and the “whys” and “what ifs” played like a constant movie reel in her mind.
The question wasn’t a new one to me, and yet, I still felt incapable of providing an adequate answer.
Who was I to say anything when I didn’t even have the answer myself? Who was I to say, “Don’t feel this way,” when I’m convinced that in varying degrees, guilt simply comes with the territory of being a human and experiencing suffering? Who was I to answer when I still have moments of questioning what I should have done, could have done, in all my life circumstances to prevent negative outcomes— loss, heartbreak, devastation? Who am I to tell anyone not to blame themselves and not to spend expend their weary heart carrying that weight, when I myself don’t have the solution?
But maybe that’s the key.
In the face of pain and complexity, when we look into your own hearts, the answers become simple.
So, I came to her, not as anyone who had superior knowledge or wisdom, and not as anyone who thought that my answer could absolve the guilt she was feeling. I came maybe as I always should, a friend, another heart, broken for her with love and compassion, knowing that there is nothing anyone can do or say to take away this kind of pain, saying the words I know my own heart has needed.
The burden of guilt is far too weighty to carry, especially when you’re already weary and worn down. I’d be lying if I told you that you carried it alone. Guilt and shame have a funny way of digging in their claws when we least expect it.
It shouldn’t be this way. You shouldn’t have to hurt this badly.
This isn’t a burden for you to hold. Guilt loves to latch on, taking captive our broken hearts.
But realize this, and say it to yourself over and over if you have to… This is not punishment. This is not something you did. This is not consequence for bad actions. Do not blame yourself. Do not carry that. Do not hang your head in shame or guilt. Try not to think of all the things you could have, would have, should have done to prevent this— all the things you could have done to stop the pain. All the things you wish were different, and then maybe life would be just right.
It wasn’t your fault. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t hold on to that. It will only serve to tear you down, and they would not want that at all for you. You know that.
You know they would want you to live freely and love fully. They, of all people to walk this earth, know the power and depth of your love, and they wouldn’t want you to hide it away.
I know your heart is broken. I’m so sorry it is. There truly are no words for this kind of pain, and it’s not a kind that heals with only a scar. It’s a lifelong wound, one that we’ll brush against every day for the rest of our lives. I think we’re learning, over time, it’s not as harsh. It’s just something that just is and always will be. But I think, given a choice, we would both choose, hands down, to feel them, whether with pain or joy, for the rest of our lives than to ever wake up one day and realize that we’ve forgotten them entirely.
I know the guilt, because I’ve been there. I know it, because sometimes I still am there.
So when the voice of guilt and shame become all you can hear, let the voice of love be louder.
You are good. You are worthy. You are brave. Your broken heart still has so much to give. You can rise with love.
I look at you, and I see strength and love. That’s who you are, not guilt and shame. You are a heart who has known pain, but also a heart who has known the richest love.
Let that love echo in your heart and drown out all the rest.
I’m here learning right beside you.
No matter how you have suffered or what you have faced, you don’t have to carry guilt or shame. You don’t have to listen to it. Let the voice of love be louder.
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