“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)
Grief is a unique journey on an emotional rollercoaster. While we don’t experience all the same reactions, there’s one emotion that every grieving parent battles – guilt.
Guilt is real for – –
- The parent who was driving the car that was involved in a wreck that took their child’s life
- The parent wondering what signs they missed that could have prevented their child from taking their own life
- The parent who upon hearing the news they’re pregnant, realizes they’re not ready for a baby – it’s not the right time – decides to have an abortion – only to go into premature labor and deliver a stillborn
- The parent who regrets not having more talks about spiritual matters with their child and now will forever wonder
- The parent who buys the car that their child is driving when their involved in a fatal accident
- The parent who gives permission for a needed medical procedure. Only to have the child die during the procedure.
- The parent whose last conversation with their child was an argument
For parents who’ve lost a child – the survivors’ guilt can be an unbearable pain. As parents, we tell ourselves it’s our job to protect our children. We are supposed to be the ones in control. As a result of that thinking, when something happens to them, we often punish ourselves, consciously and subconsciously.
Guilt is an emotion given to us by God, our Creator. It is meant to serve as a moral compass to aid in fueling our motivation to improve our behavior. To inspire us to turn to Christ in all that we do. But when we allow unhealthy thoughts to bombard our minds – we can rationalize a situation that incorrectly places guilt where it doesn’t necessarily belong.
As parents we have a lot of influence over the lives of our children, but we are not in control. We aren’t omniscient (all-knowing). We’re not omnipresent (everywhere at once). We are not omnipotent (all powerful). Simply put, we are not God.
But sometimes when things go wrong, we want to tell ourselves the exact opposite.
By leaning on our own unhealthy understanding, guilt can become debilitating when we fail to depend completely on God. Thoughts of self-sufficiency and self-dependence tell us that we somehow should have known everything and been able to “prevent it from happening”.
Guilt loses its’ control over us when we release it a loving God. We must look at the situation truthfully through His eyes. Acknowledging that we made the best decision we could at the time, with the information we had. We may even need to ask God for forgiveness, if there were mistakes made (so regret doesn’t consume us). By allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to help us learn from those mistakes, we can live victoriously -no longer controlled by guilt.
We may also need to forgive ourselves. Offering ourselves self-compassion as imperfect beings is a necessary part of the healing process.
For a believer, guilt belongs in the past. We are not called to live in the past, but in the present moment. One day at a time.
My Hope Endures,
Laura Holmes, MA, CATP
Founder/Director Ephraim Ministries