photo by  Ezgi Polat

photo by Ezgi Polat

Today, Emily guests with us to share a piece of her post-loss dark. The guilt for bereaved parents is persistent and thick, and no matter what our spiritual inheritance, the death of a child is a reckoning that doesn't fit neatly into any clear path forward. We are thrown into one of humankind's oldest and most crushing existential crises—how do we continue to live when a child does not? 

I think about Karma a lot since Henry died. Did I do something that made me deserve this? Is Karma punishing me for some past transgression?

What goes around comes around.

Everything happens for a reason.

I go over the list of wrongs I’ve committed… letting friendships go, saying unkind things, acting selfishly. I’m not perfect or even close, so my mind wanders over these incidents again and again.

It doesn’t matter. Not really. Even if I could put right all of these things, I wouldn’t get him back.

You can’t escape Karma.

They’ll get what they deserve.

Then comes the list of all the things I should have done to prevent his death. If only I’d….and what if I’d just said….and how could I have not asked about…and why did I choose…

The worst is that I’ll never know. I can’t go back and change anything to see if it would have made a difference.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.

What if?

The finality of everything hits me with a wave of nausea and a fatigue so deep that it’s all I can do to remain standing. I’m chained to the bottom of the ocean and the light above seems too far to even try to reach.

Some days I prefer the ocean floor. The quiet and the dark and the endless space soothing, instead of terrifying. Looking at the infinite abyss in all directions, there is a peace in knowing that I am very much alone down there, knowing that my actions and inactions can’t hurt anybody else. Better to be chained to the ocean floor, drowning in all that Karma’s accusing me of, than to break the surface and tempt fate.

But most days, I do try. I fight the chains and I swim even though my lungs are burning, my arms and legs aching. I swim past my worst nightmares. I fight to do the right thing, to be kind, to not let things slip between the cracks, to not let my other son die.

I hope Karma notices that.


What about life after loss pulls at you—and what keeps you trying?