I broke down tonight...

Warning…drunken moribidity follows:

Almost a yr ago my 6 yr old cousin was killed in freak accident. I remember the shock (it was almost physical) when I got the phone call, but I remember little else. During that week I minded kids, took phone calls, sent flowers, went to the funeral, and drank too much. Life went on.

Tonight, I watched an X-files episode where a little blond haired baby was hit by a train and I freaked out. I’ve mourned the deaths of family members before, but I was totally unprepared for the shock of guilt that I’m feeling right now. I feel guilt that I didn’t cry when Mac died, guilt that I did cry, but too late, and guilt that I’m watching his parents’ marriage fall apart. Is this normal? Am I overreacting?

I hope that just writing this down may help me work things out, but I’ve never felt this before and hope somebody here can help me put this in perspective.


Last year your young cousin was killed, and tonight’s X-files brought out feelings of guilt that you don’t know if are rational or over the top.

Tragic events in our lives can take a while to fully impact upon us, and often appear as feelings that we are unfamiliar with. It’s good that you’re looking to put it into perspective. That shows that you’ve got some focus.

You say that you feel a lot of guilt. In what way do you feel responsible for these things?


While I had a huge post ready to go I decided this was the best thing to say:

We all have our means by which to mourn. There is no set rule in how long or how we deal with death. For some it’s easy to get past, some slower, some didn’t even realize they needed to mourn then it hits them. I kinda think you are one of those that was so busy you may have just now realized that you needed to mourn for her/him. Drunk or not, you realize that his/her death has hit you square where you didn’t expect it.

From the small post you wrote, you didn’t have time to let it sink in initially. Well, possibly this is your time and well personally, knowing what I know on death, let it be what it is and mourn as I can’t tell from your post you had time to mourn. Holding it back can be a horrible way to live life, I know this too well.

I need to clarify something:

What I am trying to state, based on your post, you were too busy helping others in your family deal with the lose, you didn’t have time to deal with your own feelings. That’s a very unselfish thing and now it’s time to be selfish and deal with the pain you suddenly feel.

And I thoroughly apologize for my typos…geez.

Here you are trying to get to the heart of your feelings and I can’t state it as I see it in a cohesive way. I am sorry.

lose = loss (and other possible typos I offered! >

< slapping self >

Basically, you are okay to be feeling bad now, you were helping family during a horrible time, people loose themselves to helping people and now it’s your time to mourn. It’s okay. It really is.

< I hope that’s better, sheesh! >

Just push me in the basement of learning how to spell, OMG.

Sorry. I am truly sorry!

Wow, techchick, I feel your pain :). Thanks for the kind words. I feel a little better in the light of day. Maybe I really was holding my feelings back until they just exploded. In the immediate aftermath of the accident I was in shock and things were a blur. Then one day I woke up, went to work and went on with my life. It was the sudden severity of this turmoil that really scared me.

Kingswood, I have no idea where this guilt comes from, but maybe this grief will alleviate it.

I do know one thing, though. I’m never watching that X-Files episode again.

Hodge (shaken, but dealing)

Hodge, It’s great you feel a little better. Don’t feel guilty that you waited so long to mourn. That is normal for many people. I for one, usually appear hardly affected by things like that in my life, but sometimes the smallest thing can set me off later. I’ll hear a song that reminds me of the person, and I’ll freak out and start crying. (Can’t you just imagine the sight of a 6’1", 200lb. , muscular, 16 year old boy crying his eyes out for no obvious reason?)

We always feel we should have done more in circumstances such as these, be it for a parent, a (close) relative, a dear friend, etc. It’s called remorse, guilt. And it happens sooner or later. From what little you have said in the OP, you certainly seemed to have cared for those around you at the time. One way of coping with tragedy. Then your mind more or less suppressed the episode, basically to help you recuperate (the mind does wonderful things sometimes). Life went on, and then some incident from way out of left field brought it all back in an instant. Perhaps your mind determined that enough time had passed so that it would now be safe for you to bring some ‘closure’ to this sad event.

Psychiatrist I’m definitely not. So this is why your total bill will be $0.02.

Hi, Hodge.

I echo the sentiments of the others who say that you have nothing to feel guilty about.

The mind is a very strange thing. It has surprisingly effective defense mechanisms, which can work to shield you against the worst of the pain when something terrible happens so that you can function. As you said, it felt like a physical blow when you first found out — yet you were able to function, and be there and do the things you knew you were needed for at the time. Your mind toned things down a bit and buried it so that you could handle things then. Then, when you were watching the X-files, you were in an unguarded moment, and the pain that your mind had been hiding from you came out. I’ve had similar things happen to me — I would pride myself on how well I was “handling things,” and then be shocked at how much pain I would feel when something (sometimes seemingly unrelated) triggered the pent-up feelings to come back out. I’m finding that it’s usually a blessing when they DO come back out. If the emotion is that strong, it really needs to be dealt with.

Sorry to hear about your aunt and uncle having marriage difficulties. That is a VERY common thing to have happen at the death of a child. When my older sister died of cancer, our pediatrician spoke a lot with my parents about the stress that this puts on a relationship. Sometimes one parent blames the other, or sometimes it just hurts too much to be around someone who reminds you of the pain of losing your child. It is incredibly rough — but it’s nothing YOU should feel guilty about. You could suggest counseling for them, but it’s nothing under your control.

I’m very sorry about your cousin. It really hurts to lose a kid you love.

I feel your pain, dude. I remember when I was 14 and my grandfather died, I somehow blocked out the pain and negativity and it didn’t really catch up with me until about 6 months later when we went to visit his headstone (my parents went all the time but I kept coming up with things to put it off). You’ve got nothing to feel guilty about, everyone reacts to traumatic events in different ways and it seems to me (although I’m not a psychiatrist so this is not an educated opinion) that you were so shocked by what had happened that your mind just blocked out the pain until you were strong enough to deal with it. I think that same thing happened with me & my grandad. It’s perfectly natural and now that you’ve had this catharsis you can heal properly.

I’m glad to hear you’re dealing with it. Best of luck


{{{Hodge}}} I’m sorry for your loss. The guilt you are feeling is not weird; it’s called “survivor guilt.” And, IIRC, a year anniversary of a sad & traumatic event often triggers depression & sadness. Almost a year to the day after my father died, I was at a July 4th symphony/fireworks show. A piece of music that my father (a classical music buff) had loved just had me in the middle of a giant crowd crying like a baby.

Your feelings are normal, you are not overreacting. Just know that feelings are not always rational, and you really have nothing to feel guilty about.

It’s OK.


You guys are great! Thanks for everything. YWalker, it was actually my cousin’s son who died. Does that still make the boy my cousin? Second cousin? I can never keep track of that. I think my cousin’s marriage problems are part of what’s making it so hard for me now. At least right after the accident I could occupy myself with the hundreds of things that need to be done, but now I’m watching 2 people I love tear themselves apart and I don’t know what, if anything, I can do about it. He’s thrown himself into his work, and she seeks comfort with her family. I hate that he rarely talks anymore and that she seems to be spiralling into obsession and I fear for the emotional health of their baby daughter. I pray that they’ll seek therapy.

I have to thank everybody again for your support. I’ve never aired such personal things in a public forum before but I felt a compulsion to write things down and think it’s helping.


Everyone deals with pain in their own way. SOme cry a lot at first, and then not at all. SOme don’t cry at all at first, and then break down later on. It might just be that you felt that in order to be as helpful as possible when the death occurred, you needed to keep yourself in check. Sort of adopting the strong, helpful mode for the time being which took over your emotions at the time and prevented you from breaking down. That happened to me when my grandfather died.

All that I know, is that there is no reason for you to feel guilty because you didn’t immediatly succomb to some preconceived notion of how you should have reacted. There isn’t any. You react in whatever way you do, and that’s all there is to it. It’s not for anyone to say that you are grieving right or wrong, especially yourself.

I’ve often caught myself feeling like I was on the brink of tears even several years after my grandfather’s death. That’s normal I think. Sometimes events can trigger a sudden relapse in feelings, that may have been surpressed before. Maybe as you watched the X-Files, you got more upset because you you no longer needed to take a strong emotional state. It feels good to have a good cry. Oftentimes, it’s so relieving to let it out that people will purposely come up with reasons on the spot to make it continue without really realizing that they are doing that. I find that sometimes I catch myself doing this.

I don’t know if I am on track with all, or even any of this, but I hope it helped a bit…

with the guilt, I think it would help if you talked about it with someone you trust. I think that you know that it’s not rational, and that’s giving you trouble because you feel it anyway. It can be quite hard to deal with by yourself.

In the short term I’d allow it to take it’s course. If, in a month or two you’re still feeling this way, then I’d suggest you seek out a counsellor, but right now I’d say that like all things, it’ll pass.


I have no wisdom to add to what’s already been posted; I just wanted to say how sorry I am that something so awful happened to you and your family.

No one could go through a tragedy like this and not have complex and confusing feelings for some time afterwards.

Good luck, and stay away from those X-Files reruns - there’s a couple that feature violence against small children that are kind of hard to take.

(P.S. - If I’m remembering my college anthropology class correctly, your first cousin’s son is your first cousin once removed.)


I just lost a cousin this winter, to the same kind of “freak-accident” idea. I went through basically the same thing. The guilt eats you up inside, but I’ve found, too, that the boards are a great place to share and vent. E-mail me if you want to talk about anything, at Mojo530@aol.com

Best wishes to you and your family.

There is a group for the parents of children who have died called Compassionate Friends. It could be that they have already heard about this group, but if they haven’t already attended some meetings, you might want to suggest it. I hope there is a chapter near you.

I dated a man whose eight month old daughter had died twenty some years ago during her third heart surgery. He was president of the local chapter here in town, and he said they kept him from going insane, or possibly committing suicide. I can think of no greater pain than losing a child, and I grieve for you, your cousin, and your family.