Posts Tagged ‘shame’

To My Everlasting Shame

February 6, 2009

I did not stay at my father’s bedside, to be with  him until he passed. There he was, right upstairs in the bedroom, while I hid like a coward downstairs and out of sight. We knew it would be that night. The doctors had called the family in and said so. 

All his brothers and sisters, the aunts and uncles I grew up with,  had been pretty much staying at my parents’ house for those last weeks.  The pasta pots were always boiling. They brought Italian bread and provolone cheese and sweet salami with big green olives. Most importantly,  they brought the black humor which is our family trademark , especially during our darkest hours.  It sustained us and carried us.

And yet, there was an age regression that took place for me. At age 32, they were still the grown ups and I was like a child again. That’s just how the dynamics morphed. When it was soon to be time, my favorite aunt had a talk with me and asked me if I really wanted to watch my father die. She explained to me, 32 going on 8, that dying was not like in the movies. It was quite a frightening thing to see.  She encouraged me to have my quiet time alone with him, now in a coma, and say my good-bye. I did so. Then I walked out of the room and all his siblings and my mother went in and the door was firmly closed.

And so he died with his wife, brothers and sisters all around and me nowhere in sight. They later said it was an awful thing. Blood and God knows what everywhere. Even his brothers were shaken by it. It was not something I should have had to see, they told me. As if they had protected me from something.

But not long after, I realized it was my own father’s awful thing. I should have been there. I allowed myself to be shielded by my beloved and well meaning aunt with childlike trust.  I should have been there. I was not a child. I was not, in truth, protected or shielded. I was written out of the last line of the last page of his life.  No, we wrote me out. 

And I am so ashamed, sorry, and regretful… What if my father knew or sensed I wasn’t there, right through the invisible walls of his coma? My shame is this: that I, his oldest and most responsible child, should have  accompanied him on the final stage of his journey. I should have been there. 

No tidy ending to this post. I should have been there.  

(This post was inspired by a poem by Cordie entitled:  If I had it to do all again)

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Guilt & Shame: What’s the Difference?

January 17, 2008

A lot of people get these two feelings confused.

Guilt is the feeling you have when you’ve done something wrong.  It comes from inside of yourself. Its something you may want to make amends for. It nags at you. Maybe you were unkind to someone. Maybe you broke the law. That kind of thing. It does not consume your identity..

 Shame, on the other hand, is something that is done to you by the bad behavior of another person. It is abuse.It is usually done to children, who grow up feeling they are damaged or defective in some way. Their whole self concept is negative, because they’ve grown up thinking there must be something inherently wrong with me if an adult would treat me that way. The same thing happens when an adult is assaulted. They absorb the shame of the abuser, thus keeping the abuser in control long after he or she is gone.

Therapy can help you to put the shame back on the abuser, where it belongs, and take back control of who you are.