Why Bother Letting Go of Guilt?
In the aftermath of my father’s suicide, there was the guilt. When the shock of his death gave way, guilt was one of the first thoughts on the scene. I was caught off guard by the personal accusations I so willingly accepted. It took years for me to finally settle on the truth of the matter: it wasn’t my fault.
Why We Blame
As a child, I did not know that blame was a natural response to someone’s act of ending their own life. Yet, during one of our twice a month Macek Maverick calls, my siblings and I discussed the topic of guilt and blame. I was not the only one who’d accused myself. Five of the seven in my family had also felt that they were somehow at fault for our dad’s death. “If only I’d…” was a common thread of thought among us.
Though my family is notorious for thinking we are the blessed controllers of all things, none of us were in control of the final action our dad chose to take when he ended his life.
It is natural for us to want to understand tragic events such as suicide. We want to connect the dots so we can make sense of what seems so senseless. Our reasoning goes something like this: If we can pin the blame on someone or something, then we may think we can understand why it happened. But, it is actually crazy for us to think we can simplify something so complex as someone else’s thinking process. We have no idea what happens in someone’s mind when they conclude that there is no other option other than to end their life.
For the longest time, I did not want to think that my father was responsible for his own actions. It seemed too cruel of a thought. Yet, when a friend suggested that his death was not anyone’s fault, least of all mine, it made sense. My dad made a conscious choice all on his own.
Still, it was a bit of a personal wrestling match for me to let myself off the hook. Guilt and blame were something I’d grown accustomed to, their weight was familiar to me. I did not know what to expect if I let go of the load. But once I did, I realized I’d held something against myself that did not belong to me in the first place.
Why bother letting go of guilt? Though it might feel a little shameful at first to unhook ourselves from our blame, once we do then we’ll realize it wasn’t ours in the first place.