I consider August 25, 2021 the single darkest day of my life.
The news from the hospital that my beloved husband of over 38 years had succumbed to the deadly virus known as Covid-19 was devastating, a crushing, visceral blow, and like so many others who have lost a loved one to Covid, I felt not just unimaginable sorrow and grief, but anger at a world that could allow such things to happen.
Things that were preventable.
But in the 16 months since, I’ve borne the weight of grief with a resolve I never knew I had.
And I’ve drawn purpose from tragedy – attending Camp Widow in Tampa, FL for a week by myself, becoming a monthly writer for Hope for Widows Foundation, spearheading a toy drive that collected and delivered over 300 toys for sick children at a local hospital, and launching a new website with a percentage of profits going to help widow organizations.
All these things I would’ve never dreamed of doing 16 months ago.
But here I am, doing them in memory of my husband.
Everything I do is dedicated to him.
The journey hasn’t always been easy. And Lord knows I would give it all up in a heartbeat just to hear my husband’s heartbeat again. But since that’s not possible, I’ve taken the lemons that life has given me and made the sweetest batch of lemonade out of the bitterness as best I can.
I carry on despite the worst thing that could have ever happened to me.
But carrying on comes with a price.
That price is guilt.
And it has two very conflicting sides.
Guilt for being too sad. Guilt for being too happy.
Guilt for dreaming again. Guilt for the inability to dream at all.
Guilt for not wanting to live. Guilt for feeling like perhaps, I can build a new life more in line with who I really am.
Guilt because I want to be held and loved and desired again. Guilt for even having these thoughts in the first place.
Guilt for not being the mom I used to be. Guilt for wondering what it would be like if I didn’t have kids because seeing their pain hurts, too.
Guilt for blaming God for my husband’s death. Guilt for knowing how wrong I am because I know that God didn’t cause this.
Guilt because some days I’m not sure I want to be here anymore. Guilt because I know what a gift life is.
Guilt when I can’t be the supportive friend or relative I used to be. Guilt for needing support myself and being too afraid to ask for it.
Guilt when I am easily triggered. Guilt when realize I haven’t cried in a while.
Guilt when I feel jealous seeing other married couples together. Guilt for allowing myself to be shallow and petty in those moments.
Guilt because I am here, and he is not. Guilt for wondering what it would be like if I was the one who died.
And on and on and on.
First and foremost, I want to normalize all these thoughts and feelings. For anyone having conflicting feelings of guilt, I want you to know that guilt is such a normal and common part of the grieving experience. It just is.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and all our emotions are valid.
Going through something this painful changes us.
There are expectations we can no longer fill and most of our family, friends, and peers can’t understand.
There is judgement and pressure, and it seems like no matter what we do, someone has an opinion or an answer for how we should behave.
Second, rather than telling ourselves, “Don’t feel guilty, it’s wrong,” let’s start focusing more on feeling the guilt while also acknowledging that this experience is brutally difficult. Instead, we can say to ourselves, “I am a really good person living through a really hard thing.”
None of us have grief completely figured out, but this simple shift has allowed me to acknowledge my guilt while having self-compassion. The cure for guilt is forgiveness and love.
I can love myself while admitting that I am not who I was before. My capacity is not the same. And because I remember what it was to be the old me, I feel guilty sometimes and that’s totally okay. I can forgive myself and continue to move forward.
What about you, have you experienced guilt in your grief?
Let’s keep in touch! If anything resonated with you, drop a comment below or find me on Instagram @tofrankwithlove