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  • Writer's pictureSarah Swindell

The Guilts

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Yesterday I had it...a bad case of the guilts. It was one of those days where I had this nagging feeling that I was either disappointing someone or not doing enough of something. It started at 3:00 AM when I couldn't sleep thinking about my elderly parents moving from their home into an independent living apartment that next morning. Even though I had just driven back from Houston to Austin after helping them pack for two days, I had to get back for other commitments I had made that week for my book. My brothers were taking the day off to help them but I was wracked with guilt that I could not be there to help as well. I stewed over it for hours in the night.

For the whole rest of that day, a few more little things happened that just nagged at my heart. Now that I am writing about it, they were silly and just a product of my overactive brain; overthinking things that are too embarrassing to even mention. But they sure got to me and those guilty feelings decided to hang out with me for the entire day as if I was being forced to hang out with someone I really don't enjoy being around.

Then the mother of all guilty thoughts invaded my head that night before bed. I was watching videos on Facebook of a mom filming her adult son with autism doing all kinds of cool things. She was so engaging with him and while he was profoundly autistic, you could understand what he was saying and seemed to be enjoying the activities his mother was encouraging him to do. I started to tear up watching those videos.

Greg was sitting next to me and I asked him, "Do you think we did enough for Dawson?" Then the tears came freely. This overwhelming feeling of guilt took over my entire body. Guilt that I didn't do enough to give my son the chance to enjoy simple things like that boy was doing in the videos.

What did that mom do that made her son have some language? Did she have more patience? More resources? More courage to push him when he didn't want to be pushed? Why did that boy love jumping into a big colorful ball pit, or get excited about an Amazon package that was delivered and Dawson could care less about anything like that? What did I do wrong in his life that prevented him from enjoying the simple things that everyone should be able to enjoy?

This is where the choice I made to re-marry this man became perfectly clear once again. Greg took me in his arms and gently reminded me that we DID do everything in our power to help Dawson. We did the best we could and that Dawson is the best Dawson he can be because of that. He also allowed me to just sit and cry without judgment as he held me.

The guilt I felt at the moment was almost paralyzing because I felt I missed the window once again, just as I felt so many times over the years. That it was all my fault for not doing enough, or trying the one thing that may have changed everything for him. The thing that would make him get excited about a package being delivered.

Today I realized something about yesterday which is the difference between guilt and sadness. I felt guilty about not being there for my parents, but I felt sadness about my son. Sadness for all the things he is missing in this beautiful world and for what could have been for him. To feel such sadness is hard for even me to explain because it is so profound. The good thing is that intense sadness doesn't come out to play very often.

I think all parents deal with guilt when it comes to their children whether they are typical or special needs. We naturally strive to want the very best for them and when something goes wrong, we immediately blame ourselves. Guilt is a feeling you simply just need to get over and move on from.

Many times we think we are feeling guilt when really it is just good old fashion sadness that needs to come out and be dealt with. Coming out to make room for happiness and love to come back in.

Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here!

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