I don't even know how long it would take me to chronicle all of the things I have felt guilty about since losing my daughter. I feel guilty for smiling in pictures, for attending social events, for exercising, and going to the store. I feel guilty when I think I want more children or don't think I could mange another pregnancy. I feel guilty when I'm happy and when I'm not. I feel guilty crying then in the absence of tears think how I am a bad mom for not mourning her. I am walking an exhausting, emotional tight rope that will span a lifetime.
"Guilt is both a cognitive and an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes that he or she has violated a moral standard and is responsible for that violation. People can feel guilty about something they actually did or didn't do." therapy.com
Guilt is a typical response of being a devoted parent. I'd venture to guess it provides you an element of control over the uncontrollable. It's the tendency to think if I do everything right, then no bad will happen. My mom friends worry about everything. Is she eating enough? Is he sleeping enough? Is that a bug bite or a hive? They feel guilty when they travel or drop their kids at a babysitters'. They feel guilty when they work late. I won't lie and say guilt is a new emotional experience for me but I will share the guilt I feel now is on steroids.
I've talked about how I don't feel guilty about Piper's death but I do feel guilty for my life after. I worked hard to provide my girl with a happy, healthy environment. I took all the vitamins, stayed away from microwaves and sushi. And given a choice, I would have gone in her place. Perhaps the most heavy one, is the guilt, I feel when other's encounter me in public. I imagine they look at me and wonder, how I am standing, clothed, clean and sometimes smiling. Depending on the day, I do too. Now I'll assume this is mostly in my head but I forgive them for the side eye and whispers because what I lost, is so great, you cannot imagine going on with your life. Living after your child died is unimaginable, but here I am. Proof that the world goes 'round. So when you see me at the pub or in line at the Food Lion, I too, am shocked.
There is no hiding our tragedy. I paraded around with my very large midsection, had baby showers and made plans. This cannot be an internal struggle where I wait for the storm to die down, my loss is obvious. When your child dies it is beyond difficult to give yourself permission to live again. I feel as if we have violated the natural way life should occur in outliving my child. How am I to function in a world where she does not live? It sounds impossible and depending on the moment feels that way. So there is the guilt. The guilt for creating a new version of your life. The mother's guilt.
The only way I can manage it the guilt is to justify it. It may look different to a lot of people but I know I would have kept on living my life with an infant. Choosing to live your life to honor your child is a challenging choice. There are still days where I only go through the motions and there are days when I am as close to 'me' as I am going to get. By forcing myself to participate in life I happen to find moments of joy and peace. My life has new meaning now that I live it for Piper. I try to feel all the feels and experience this new life extra, for her.
I am a mother. She is forever a part of me, a bond not even broken by death. So I go on telling myself how Piper died but I am alive. The guilt is all part of the game. Sometimes I have to give myself a good pinch and yell in my car.
Rest easy Piper Kai.