Guilt and Grief
In the August 25th article “I Couldn’t Say ‘My Mother’ Without Crying” by Hope Edelman, Edelman describes the difficulty found in dealing with the devastating grief faced by a child who loses a parent. As I can attest from personal experience, the grief of a surviving friend can be just as pungent and lasting. For Eldeman, it is “the closeness of the grieving” that crushes a child, but I and others have been just as destroyed by the loss of those we “consider family.” Not having the link of the literal title of family ushers gut-wrenching feelings apart from grief into the grieving process. The excruciating feeling of grief experienced by a child is aggravated by additional feelings like guilt brought on by a “so close, too late” mindset.
In 2012 a friend of mine was declared missing and was eventually discovered to have been killed. Coming from a small town, everyone had a story to tell about her. On the rare occasions that I shared mine, I emphasized that I was not her best friend. We played soccer together, we had sleepovers, we went to each other’s parties, we sat next to each other in classes, but for some reason I felt unjust in claiming any part of her. Observing the grief of those around me made my own feel self-indulgent. “What right do I have to feel so much pain when her sister is undoubtedly suffering worse?” I thought. The feeling that I should grieve in private rather than burden those who are undoubtedly feeling worse with my pain lead me to bury my feelings, creating a hole much larger than if I had simply grieved in the moment. The trauma of her loss and my guilt over grieving her are still evident in my personality today.
While Edelman’s article captures the difficulties of facing grief as a child, it does not show the confusion the grief of others induces on a child. Being someone who was undoubtedly changed by the loss of someone close to me, I can affirm that it is just as important to validate the grief felt by a child as it is to help the child grow through their loss. No child can process grief without validation. Only when a child is forgiven for what they are feeling and assured that their feelings are legitimate, can they begin to process the complicated feelings of guilt that accompany loss.