What if I feel guilty as a parent because of my child’s disability?
I was asked this question a few weeks ago when I was teaching for Joni and Friends. If you are a parent who feels guilty, or if you are concerned about a parent who feels guilty, here are some thoughts:
- No matter the cause, we never need to stay in a place of guilt.
Where is the guilt coming from? Guilt shouldn’t be dismissed with the words, “Oh, but you shouldn’t feel guilty.” The feeling is real and deserves attention so that you can move towards healing and freedom.
- Sometimes guilt comes from false responsibility:
I felt guilty when Penny was first born with Down syndrome, even when I was told by all the doctors that I had done nothing to cause her condition. I wondered if she had Down syndrome because I had an eating disorder in highschool. I thought maybe she had Down syndrome because I was a perfectionist and needed to be taught a lesson.
- But I eventually learned that my guilt came from a desire for control.
If I could take responsibility for Penny having Down syndrome, then I didn’t need to live in the mystery or perhaps the pain of her situation. I didn’t want to believe that no one was responsible or that God was responsible. It was easier to assume that I had somehow done something wrong and take the weight of the situation on myself.
- Real responsibility:
Sometimes we feel guilty because we’ve done something wrong or made mistakes that have resulted in harm for people we love, even our children. Here too, if we pay attention to that experience of guilt, we can make amends and seek forgiveness.
So if we don’t need to remain in guilt, what should we do? Honesty, humility, and hope are movements towards healing.
Guilt is never, ever, ever the place that God wants us to remain. We are always meant to be set free.
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