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.