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Grief and Guilt About my Son

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am not coping well with the grief of losing my son. He was charged of a double homocide in 2009 and is currently awaiting trial. I am mostly concerned with my inabiity to stop blaming myself. Logically,I know and tell myself that it is not my fault. However, there were signs that I should have paid attention to. Not to mention I ignored sound advice from experts to phone our local States Attorney and turn him in for probation violation. I found him unbearable to live with and knew something was seriously wrong. Why didn’t I see that if I couldn’t bare to be around him, mostly because of his torture to me and my family. Then it was only a matter of time that he was going to turn that terror onto others within the community. I should of known and I definitely should have listen to the experts. Now people are dead, because I failed them. Good and decent people. I want to be free again. I want to trust again. I want to live again

I’m so, so sorry for the multiple reasons for heartache that you are carrying. You really have lost the son you thought you would have. You are not the first nor will you be the last parent who kept on hoping and hoping that things would get better, that your son would grow out of it, wise up, or learn his lesson. You tolerated so much because the love of a mother for a child is often like that. Somehow we feel that if we just hang in there and love them enough, kids gone wrong will come to their senses. Sometimes it even works. Sometimes the experts are even wrong. And sometimes they are not. Sadly, usually the only way we know is in hindsight. You can’t be faulted for being no better than the rest of us at predicting what would happen next.

I don’t know if there was more you could have done. I do know that it’s common for parents to blame themselves. It doesn’t help that we live in a society that tends to blame parents. But as you are finding, blame doesn’t help. Even if you are somehow to blame (and I doubt that you are), accepting the blame is not going to change the situation for you or for your son. Instead, you need to find a way to sort out where you may have some responsibility and where your son made his own choices and then find ways to both forgive and to transform your experience into something positive. We can’t change the past but we can change how we use our past experiences to make things better for ourselves and others in the present and the future.

To get good support and practical suggestions for doing that, you need more help than I can offer in an advice column. I just did an Internet search for “parents of prisoners” and found quite a few online support groups. I suggest you do the same and make use of the site that feels right for you. There is nothing quite so reassuring and supportive as talking with others who share a life experience in some way. In addition, you may want to explore some counseling for yourself and other family members to help you through this difficult time.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie


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