Heart Led Health by Coach Donna

Saturday / August 04 / 2012

Coping with gut-wrenching guilt

Blogging about the accident has gifted me with a new freedom. Permission to breathe. Absorbing the comments of you, my readers has gifted me with… well, a new perspective. An embrace of love and understanding. Thank you.

Privately, a couple of you have shared your own battles with rooted, suppressing guilt stemming from the accident. Guilt you have endured for 25 years. Alone. Guilt you put on yourself (as I did) in a determined attempt to rescue your mind from the many unanswered questions of,Why?!”

One friend revealed, “I have never told anyone else this, but I feel I need to share with you. I felt responsible and guilty after the accident.”

I had no idea.

My prayer is that our journey together through stories and discussion, ache and adulation — but mostly through the freedom with which they are exchanged — will solidify friendships and build souls of love, courage, and freedom.

My friend and heroine Denise Foster asserted, “These stories you share help me to better understand the depth of your suffering on that awful day, and beyond. I have put those memories so far in the past, but you live with them daily. I am proud of you, not for surviving, but for living the life that you live despite those difficult times.”

It’s not about survival — or even who did or didn’t survive.
It’s about living life.

Every time I stand before a mirror, I see my scars. Every day as I care for and cherish my leg, I’m reminded. Of that day. Of those unanswered questions.

For two years, I endured stomach pain so great, I sank into deep clinical depression, an illness I’ve since learned to accept and embrace. After every medical test known to mankind showing I’m “perfectly normal”, my wise and dear friend Dave Covey suggested I may be suffering from PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder?!?,” I asked, baffled. “I thought that was only for people who had been to war.”

Naiveté aside, I now recognize the 24/7/365 punishing stomach pain could indeed be attributed to PTSD. A disorder so intense it was was gut-wrenching — literally.

I back-tracked the start of my stomach ails to the time period when I made the decision to move back ‘home’ to upstate New York. I’d left the great Adirondacks when I was basically still a child (at least 22 seems like a child now that I’ve crossed into my 40s). With the mind of a child was the only way in which I’d processed the tragedy of the accident. I hadn’t upgraded my processing equipment. I didn’t even know I needed to.

I hadn’t lived in the physical arena of the car accident in nearly 20 years and had no idea a move ‘home’ would affect me so dramatically. But it did.

Nearly tore my guts out.

I needed a new, “grown-up” version of how to cope with the fallout from that day. One not of despair and hopelessness but of courage, strength, and survival. It’s sharing that journey together that breeds the most healing.

♦ “Why you should process the pain of tragedy” here

♦ “I’m Alive” here

♦ “6 Truths to normalizing depression” — part I here  and  part II here

Visit The You Evolution’s blog category The Accident” HERE



6 responses to “Coping with gut-wrenching guilt”

  1. Carol LaFleur says:

    Donna, you are one of the kindest, most positive, graceful women I know. Your courage to share your story and all that encompasses, is a true gift. Please keep doing what you do – you are an inspiration and I, for one, am glad you made the move back home. Had you not, I would not have the privelege of calling you my friend.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, Carol. I, too am delighted we made the move and am glad to call you, friend.


  2. Dawn says:

    You are an AMAZING WOMAN and I am so greatful for you. It is amazing how guilt can literally eat us alive, learning to cope with it and LIVE is no easy task but when you can begin to do so it really is so freeing. Love you my dear friend!!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Dawn, you’re right that learning to cope is not an easy task. Overcoming guilt is often much more challenging than overcoming grief. Love you, too, my sweet friend.


  3. Michael says:

    Donna: You are so courageous. Guilt is such a dangerous opponent. It has taken me into rough places I never thought I would visit. I am coming to terms with my own guilt, which is most often misplaced sadness. You DO have the tools now to process things and we are here for you, ALWAYS.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Your sentiments mean so much, Michael. Thank you! You’re right… guilt is SUCH a dangerous opponent. But one that does NOT get to win. Keeping in front of it through open dialogue with loving, trusted friends is of the utmost importance, no matter what the situation. Carry on!! xo


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