When the words “I love you” left my lips as I looked at my son for the last time, I had no idea the thought of ending his life had crept into his mind. Our last conversation was about a stupid E-Cigarette that I was sure we would continue when I returned home that evening. I did return home that evening, but there was no conversation to continue because Caleb had died. I was the last to see him, to talk to him, to parent him and it was me who told him he couldn’t leave the house because he was in trouble for having an E-Cigarette. It was me. It’s my fault. I caused his death. I led him there, and you couldn’t convince me otherwise!
I bashed myself daily for far too long over what I did and what I did not do to stop Caleb from taking that fateful step that evening. Nothing I did or said could change the finality of Caleb’s death, but the guilt was running rampant through my mind all day, every day. I quickly labeled myself as “the mom who walked away” because that’s exactly what I did. I walked away, and he died. Up until that moment, I thought I had complete control over him. What is a parent’s number one goal? Keep your children alive! I’m inadequate. I failed. The confidence I had in myself as a mother was gone. I had intense remorse over my last parental act.
Working through crushing guilt and a mountain of regrets has been hard, mental work. In the beginning I was just going through the motions and doing what everyone told me to do which was go to counseling and get all the help. Because I have continued with it 3 years later, I see now that it was my devotion to live and to heal. I wanted a quick fix, but I soon realized that a quick fix wasn’t possible. Working through all the pain, suffering, grief, guilt, regrets and the list goes on and on, was going to take a long time. I prayed for the courage and strength to bear the unbearable and for focus to walk by faith and not by sight.
I’ve gotten to a place where I know in my mind that Caleb’s death isn’t my fault but my heart is heavy with guilt over not protecting him, and I can’t say that I will ever be able to process that feeling away. I’m his mom, I’m supposed to protect him from danger, harm and death. Caleb would be devastated if he knew that I blamed myself for something he did, and I don’t want to devastate my boy. There are a million and one things I wish I would have done differently, but hindsight does me no good, it is nothing more than an exercise in futility. Where am I now? I’m learning to love myself again. I trust in myself as a mother again. I have accepted the pain of child loss. I have forgiven myself for walking away, as I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I did the best with what I knew at the time. I was a great, loving and protective mom to Caleb 100% of the time I had with him.
I chose the Lotus Flower to feature here because for it to blossom, the lotus flower must grow through mud and dirty pond water. But it blooms anyway. Just as a Lotus Flower has to push through mud and dirty pond water, in order for me to survive Caleb’s death and not live with guilt and regret every day, so must I.