Grief, Guilt and Loss
Can you feel grief without also experiencing guilt? While I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced a lot of loss in my life, in my experience the two always go hand in hand. There’s always the feeling of not having done enough. Of not having tried hard enough to stay connected. Of the conversations that won’t be had.
When I was in El Salvador for a week, because of COVID and the kiddo not being vaccinated, I decided we would stay close to home. I also decided, since we would be staying close to home, that we would work on potty training. I didn’t love not being able to see as many people as I wanted, but the low contact seemed necessary. At the time I was also thinking we’d be back for two weeks in December. She’d be vaccinated by then, hopefully COVID would be even less of a problem. I’ll see everyone then, I thought.
That decision gutted me in early July when I found out an aunt died in late June. We had talked about seeing her but it was hard for her to get around and I didn’t want to be on public transportation with the kid because potty training wasn’t going well. I consoled myself with the thought that I’d see my aunt in a few months and she’d get to meet my little girl.
I’m almost 50 years old. You’d think I’d be more aware of the fact that people that have known me all my life won’t be around forever. But that’s not the way my brain works. That can’t be the way our brains work, can it? To constantly be thinking that a visit, a moment, could be the last visit, the last moment with someone. That seems emotionally exhausting.
The last time I saw my aunt was in 2018. When I forget she’s passed, I just think of her living in El Salvador, going about her day to day life. And then I feel that pang of sadness, followed quickly by the guilt, again. I console myself by reminding myself that in those three years I emailed and called her, gave her updates on the baby, sent photos and, during the lockdown that affected all of us, I helped as much as I could. So the three years didn’t pass in complete silence but, still, the decision to not see her a few months ago, for now, seems so heavy that it overshadows the efforts of the last three years.
So it goes. Life goes. Whether we’re ready for it or not.