Did I Make A Mistake Having an Only Child?

Question from Anne: My mother warned me not to have an only child.  I guess I should have listened to her as my son died of cancer last year. Do you think she was right and that I made a mistake? How do I live with such a big mistake?

Dr. Bob Baugher responds: Thank you for your question. First off, my heart goes out to you as you cope with the death of your precious son. Grief is hard and a common grief reaction is guilt. One type of guilt is called “If-only Guilt” in which we go back in our mind and say, “If only I had (or hadn’t) done this…” Sound familiar? But at the time your son was growing, was it really a mistake for you to choose to have one child? And if your son could magically say something to you about your If-only Guilt, would he say something like the following?

“Mom, thank you for bringing me into this world. At the time you had me, you never dreamed I would die before you. Having only me was not a ‘mistake.’ It was, at the time, the best decision. So, can you forgive yourself and begin to let go of this guilt?”

What do you think, Ann? Does this sound what a loving son would say to his mother? I hope so.

Bob Baugher

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Bob Baugher, Ph.D., is a Psychology Instructor at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington where he teaches courses in Psychology and Death Education. As a trainer for LivingWorks he has trained more than 1,000 people in suicide intervention. He has given more than 600 workshops on grief and loss across the U.S. including England, South Africa, and Namibia. As a professional advisor to the South King County Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, Bob has been invited to speak at many of the TCF national conferences during the past 20 years. He earned a certificate in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education and Counseling and in the 1990s he was a clinician with University of Washington School of Nursing Parent Bereavement Project. Bob has written several articles and seven books on the bereavement process. Reach him at b_kbaugher@yahoo.com. Dr. Baugher appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss Coping with Anger and Guilt After a Loss.

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