Guilt, Get it Out
I had a lesson in the power of guilt recently and in the power of letting it go.
My local JDRF chapter hosted a cool retreat called “Women of Type 1.” It was for adult women with type 1, moms of type 1 kids and teen girls with type 1. I created a talk called “She Just Doesn’t Get It,” for the teens and moms. After a short presentation, I split the groups. The teens went next door with Lauren, a college student and type 1 herself. The moms stayed with me and a Peds endo nurse.
The separate groups answered several of the same fill-in-the-blank questions including:
It drives me crazy when she ________
If I think about what her day must be like it makes me feel ______
I admire her because _______
You can see some of the responses here (apologies for the awful handwriting!):
The moms talked about admiring their daughters’ strength, worrying about them being on their own and admitted sometimes feeling like they hovered or nagged too much. The teens talked about being grateful and admiring their moms’ strength, even though they said their moms did tend to hover and nag too much. There was a lot of laughter and some tears.
We brought the groups back together; I shared the moms’ responses and Lauren shared the teens’. When she read, “When I think about her day it makes me feel guilty,” she started tearing up. I heard sniffling and saw nods all over the room. These teens feel guilty. Almost every single one of them. Guilty that diabetes makes their parents worry, that it takes up time & money and takes away from family and fun time.
Some of the moms were shocked. They shared that THEY felt guilty. Guilty for not being able to take away the burden of diabetes, for not doing more to help, for knowing that their daughters might not feel well while they themselves felt fine. Many thought they had shielded their kids from knowing how much diabetes takes. But the kids know. We don’t have to tell them. They just know.
It was a tough moment, but a great one. We talked through guilt. How it implies that we feel we are at fault. That we’ve done something wrong. That we’re a burden to someone else. How sharing that feeling can help lift that weight. Giving the other person a chance to say, let me carry that load. Let me share your burden and lift you up. To say, we aren’t perfect but we love you and we’ll do anything we can do help you through this.
I heard later that some of the moms called it a breakthrough moment. There was one teen who hadn’t talked to her mom about how she felt about diabetes in two years. After the session, she opened up (surprise, she told her mom sometimes she hates it). I don’t imagine we “fixed” anything. But that wasn’t the point. I’m so grateful to have helped nudged along the conversation. Because when we release those feelings, it’s the first step in relieving them. I don’t imagine we’ll ever really separate guilt and diabetes. But it’s easier to let it go, just a bit, when we do it together.