Coping with Guilt Feelings

I am pleased to have the opportunity to be part of this group to talk about the special issues faced by a replacement child. The feeling of guilt concerns the most basic, essential issue of all for all human beings: the question of “life itself”. As a replacement I came to live, I am being alive because another human being had to die.

Guilt Image

In my case, the guilt is manifested by a subliminal but permanently present feeling of having to prove myself, of having to earn something and don’t just get it, that feeling that my life is ok as it is. The problem is that there is no measure, no yardstick, no unit, no starting point from which I can feel I have earned my life. This creates a never-ceasing search for something, for something that seems insatiable, that cannot be satisfied in the long term even by successes, confirmations, and recognition.

The rational knowledge that every living being has a right to life of its own accord is often of little help here.

And sometimes, when I’m absorbed in a beautiful activity, it reappears, that feeling that “it” really shouldn’t be good. That my life should not be good, the things I do should not turn out well, that something stays forever ‘not good enough’. I notice it by boycotting myself, doing things that harm myself, also harm my body, so as not to experience too much happiness in my life, no more than my family members have experienced.

For me, it remains a lifelong task to become aware again and again that this basic feeling of guilt, of not deserving a happy life has nothing to do with my person, it is almost something impersonal, because it belongs to the history, to the family into which I was born. I think life has given me this challenge to grow, to find myself.

Thanks a lot

Heike Deck, Germany

Heike Deck is a member of the Replacement Child Forum community and a previous contributor. You can read her previously submitted Letter here.

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