Matthew 5:4 They are blessed who grieve, for God will comfort them (NCV)
“Mommy” guilt – My definition: that feeling that parents have when they are conflicted about whether they’ve done enough, given enough, or done right by their children. A phrase that I believe was initially used when women began leaving the home for the work place, for whatever reason.
“Mommy” grief – My definition: that feeling of sorrow and remorse parents have when they see and recognize the pain their children are experiencing, especially when those children are unable to receive, recognize, or accept the fact of parental love due to historical action or inaction of the parent and the child’s perceptions that followed.
I’ve piled on the mommy guilt throughout the past 25+ years. Recently, I’ve had others, including my children, indicate that I have much to feel guilty for. Contrastingly, as I’ve been working through this particular issue, I have had a number of people confuse my expressions of grief as statements of guilt.
Here is what is really going on. For most of my life I have diverted the grief and sorrow from many events and circumstances: I’ve ignored it, minimized it, covered it up, shoved it away, and buried it. I’ve spent most of my adult life focusing on the externals as a way of “fixing” myself and my life or as the reason why my life has failed. However, in the midst of all of that I’ve also known and believed that what’s broken is on the inside and that I don’t have the ability to make it better on my own. So, I’ve also sought religion, spirituality, therapy, and medicine for healing. Throughout it all, God has been strongly at work, bringing me to my current place of being.
I’m done apologizing for the mistakes and the missing pieces of my past and in my life. I understand that I couldn’t give what I didn’t have; I couldn’t teach what I didn’t know; and I couldn’t be what I never was. That’s where guilt ends and grief begins. Coming to an understanding of what I didn’t have and couldn’t offer to my own children by seeing the pain they are going through now and knowing the pain their current choices will be bringing them. Gaining the insight that there’s so much love and compassion that I have kept myself away from because of false beliefs, wrong understanding, and misconceptions opens up the vault of suppressed grief.
So, as I talk about what is happening with my adult children and how our relationships with each other are currently happening, the tears flow. That’s grief, not guilt and it’s ok. I believe that unresolved grief is a significant part of the depression I’ve struggled with the entirety of my adult life. So, it stands to reason that resolving the grief, allowing it to happen as it should is part of the healing process for my depression.
Sadness and grief are part of life. These may make people uncomfortable to be around, but they need to be acknowledged and expressed. If these emotions are not allowed to run their course and a person denies and suppresses them, then emotions such as joy and thankfulness are denied and suppressed as well. I’m tired of living an emotionally suppressed/repressed life and all of my children and those around me deserve to have the most functional and present me I can be. So, when grief wells up, I’m going to let it out. But in your discomfort, please don’t mistake it for guilt and try to explain why I don’t need to be sad about it. Thanks.