Monday, May 19, 2014

Here's the post where you start to wonder about my sanity! AKA Survival Guilt, 4 Year Olds, and Q-Bert

Ben has a habit, like a lot of four year olds, of only wanting to do the exact opposite of what we want him to do.  This results in us using tactics that may not get us into the parenting hall of fame, but they work.  For instance, he won't put on his shoes? No problem, tell him that he isn't allowed to wear shoes today. Do you want him to not steal your favorite orange yogurt?  Tell him that's the only flavor he's allowed to eat.  I use these tactics so many times a day without thinking, that it took quite awhile for me to realize that I can manage my feelings of guilt the same way I do Ben's behavior.

I have what they call "Survivor Guilt".  I feel guilty because why am I alive and Sue's not?  Why do I get to raise my kids and she doesn't?  On the flip-side, if I am alive and she's not I should live every moment fully aware of how lucky I am to be alive, right?  This is impossible to do. I then feel guilty that I'm not constantly thankful.  When I tell people about my guilt they (understandably) point out that I shouldn't feel guilty.  Then I feel guilty that I can't stop feeling guilty and that I'm really bad at figuring out how to let go of the guilt.

This is a big problem.  It can swirl around my head all day and night.

One day I told a friend who unfortunately has a lot of experience with grief about the constant guilt.  She said, "Yes that's going to happen, It's part of the process."

Suddenly I could drop the guilt about not being able to stop feeling guilty.  It's normal!  It's going to happen! It happens to all grieving people!

I spent some time mulling over how I could manage it.  Not make it go away, because it wasn't likely to go away no matter how much I tried to get it to go away.  I just needed a plan to be okay with it in my life.

I started to imagine a scenario in which the guilt was a person.  Or, well, in my case it actually looked like the 80's video game character, Q-Bert. (I have no idea why). When Q-Bert/guilt (oh!  I should call him "Guilt-Bert) was staring me in the face, getting in the way of my other thoughts and ruining my day I would say, "Okay, come hop up next to me on this bench.  You get comfortable because you can stay as long as you'd like.  You can stay for days and days if you want.  You are part of the process and it's okay for you to be here."

Then I noticed that as soon as I acknowledged him and gave him permission to stay around, he acted just like Ben and immediately left.  It's not completely foolproof.  Sometimes he stays on the bench longer than other times, but at least I have a plan!

And that's how I've been working on letting go of my survival guilt by treating it as an obstinate 4 year old Q-Bert.

1 comment:

  1. Who you gonna' call ? Grief Busters! You are stellar in every way !