Guilt and Grace

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Grief has a funny way of showing itself.  Anger, sadness, anxiety.  I’ve felt all of them from time to time.  But lately, the grief has been manifesting itself into guilt.

Of course, guilt has been here before.  With every pregnancy loss, my brain finds a way to put the blame on me.  Maybe I ate too many GMOs, maybe I was too active, maybe I wasn’t active enough, maybe I allowed stress to overwhelm me.  If I wasn’t doing XY or Z, then maybe they would have lived.  Maybe if I had gone to the hospital sooner, or more often.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

But all my doctors have reassured me that none of these things caused my loss.  I did everything I was supposed to do, took every medication, went to every appointment.  This guilt, though overwhelming at times, isn’t based on anything realistic.

During the holiday season, I’ve had a new guilt pop up.  That I’m not doing enough.  At the end of the year, there are so many opportunities to give my time or my money to certain causes.  I feel like my mailbox has been especially full this year with year-end requests from various organizations.  I feel like I’ve had a lot more requests to volunteer at different causes or do things with friends or for friends.  And it’s been, frankly, overwhelming to the point that I freeze at each request, and I end up doing nothing.

Realistically, Michael and I set aside a certain amount of funds for our charitable donations.  We give throughout the entire year.  And we have certain causes that we give to at the end of the year.  Since I’ve stopped working, that budget is a little stricter.  I would love to participate in more opportunities, but for now, I have to just take note of the new possibilities and try to include them next year.

Realistically, I do volunteer my time.  I started going back to the SPCA on a limited basis.  I have spent time with friends and did things for friends.  I know that I want to do more, would love to be able to drop everything on the spur of the moment, but, again, realistically, I’m grieving.  I can’t put grieving on the back burner for very long.  It will just simmer there and eventually boil over and create a mess.  I need to take the advice from last week and be okay with creating the space I need to in my life.

Realistically, there is more going on with us this holiday season than just grieving the loss of our daughters. Michael’s dad who has dementia has been going through some pretty rough transitions and a lot of our energy and focus has been pointed towards his care this month.  On top of that, our boxer-mix Loco’s health is failing. He’s getting older and he has some health conditions that require more care, different care, and we are just trying to focus on his quality of life right now, without breaking the bank.

It’s important for me to see what is real and what is not.  Christmas, while a wonderful time of year to be generous and hospitable to others, can also provide a good amount of guilt for not doing enough for others.  But the reason we celebrate this holiday is to celebrate the coming of the grace of God in human form.  Christ came to this earth to extend grace to everyone, and I think it’s only proper that we extend that same grace to others and even to ourselves.

Extending grace is a true gift at Christmas time.  When you extend grace to others, it expresses the hope and joy of the season. So, if you happen to run into someone who is less than generous this holiday season, whether just a rude person or someone who seems to be skipping out on the season of generosity, give them grace also. It may be the best Christmas present they will receive this year.

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