guilt is ________ (fill in the blank)

Guilt is the ghost that comes in the lonely hours of the night.
Guilt is lying awake, mind wracked, heart pinching.
Guilt is the same words banging against my skull over and over and over—

            I didn’t know.
            I didn’t know you.
            I didn’t know you were dying
            I didn’t know you were dying inside me
            I didn’t know you were dying inside me but I knew something was wrong

Guilt is accusation.
Guilt is I wasn’t a good enough mother.
Guilt is never having learned to trust my intuition.

Guilt is hearing, “There wasn’t anything you could have done.”
Guilt is rejecting it.

Guilt is failing you.
Guilt is my body failing you, my body failing me.
Guilt is desperation.

Guilt is all the shoulds:

            I should have known
            I should have called
            I should have gone
            I should have been able to save you

Guilt is optional, my sister says. A phrase she isn’t sure she herself believes.

Guilt is deserved.
Guilt is a stone around my neck, a burden, a cross to bear.
Guilt is not the same as shame, though, my mother says.

Guilt is my unresolved grief.
Guilt is the regrets—

            I didn’t kiss your forehead
            I didn’t wrap your fingers around mine
            I didn’t smell your head or stroke your dark hair
            I didn’t sing to you, rock you, lay my cheek against yours

Guilt is not being able to look at your bruised and swollen face.

Guilt is only natural, a friend tells me.
Guilt is you being a good mother, she says,

            Wanting what’s best for our children
            Wanting to protect them
            Wanting them to survive

Guilt is.

How do you deal with your feelings of guilt? What form does your guilt take? Guilt is ____________ (fill in the blank).