Guilt is one of the worst stages of grief. It’s one that lingers. It holds you down. Clouds your vision. Deepens your depression. Why does this tiny word effect us so harshly?
There is guilt with any passing of a loved one. If my dad had a heart attack, I would feel guilty that he might have had too many treats. If he passed from a tragic car accident, I would say to myself that I could have made him stay home. All these IF ONLY questions. Guilt from losing a loved one to suicide is a much deeper, darker hole. It can consume you. IF ONLY I would have called more, asked him if he was feeling suicidal, taken him to the hospital to have him committed for suicidal thoughts. What if I gave him better advice, to get through is suffering? What if I visited him when he was feeling so bad? Would it have cheered him up? What if I talked more with him at Thanksgiving?
Guilt is such a consuming emotion. The worst part of all this, my dad said on two or more occasions, that its not worth living if he has to suffer with the physical side effects. He said he was thinking of taking his life, he just couldn’t stand the physical effects of his hormone therapy treatment. So why didn’t we do anything? That’s where I feel ashamed, embarrassed, a failure. A failure because I didn’t have him committed or called his doctor.
My dad has suffered with anxiety and depression his whole life. He tried natural supplements to help relieve his symptoms. He read self help books. But never in his life, that my family and I were aware of, did he ever think about taking his life. So when my dad said these awful words of wanting to take his life, we knew it was bad. We thought it was something that he could get through. He was tough! But we never thought he would actually take his own life! We thought it was a phase, that he would get over these awful side effects of hormone therapy and feel so much better! He called his doctor on Christmas Eve, asking what he could do to relieve these symptoms. The doctor didn’t hear his despair, depression, and loss of hope. And neither did we! The doctor probably only heard his anger and impatience. When it got bad, my mom, sister, and I all tried to help him. My mom counseled with him every day. She would cook him good, hearty meals to get his weight up (not knowing that he would let it all out after he ate). My mom tried to get him out of the house. The day before he passed, they went out to breakfast and went shopping. He even commented that he had a good day. My sister counseled with him. She was going to support him in not taking the last hormone shot, and was going to go with him to the doctor that week of his passing. She offered great advice to him. I called him every few days, just to see how he was doing. I tried to make him laugh. I sent him some books to read that he would enjoy. I told him that it sounds like he is also suffering from depression and that he should get on medication. He was worried about side effects from medication. So he ended up not wanting to go on it. I gave him coping skills to help him get through the days. I told him that he will feel better, told him things to look forward to. I told him I was sorry he was suffering. That was our last conversation.
My family and I tried so hard to help him. But did we really do enough? What if we took it more seriously and have him committed. Would that have helped? My dad was never one to take any medications. So I honestly don’t think that would have helped.
All of these questions, the ‘what if’s’, the ‘if only’s’, is so emotionally consuming. They will never truly go away. Guilt will always be there. Always. In order for me and my family to move on, we need to let go of that guilt. Know that we all did our best, each and every one of us. This will not be easy. Most days will be hard, trying to acknowledge that we did everything we could.
That’s where we have to look at the bigger picture. God is in control. He always has been. He knows our hearts, our intentions, our thoughts! He loves us unconditionally. He is a very loving Heavenly Father. He does not want guilt to completely consume us. And neither would by dad!