I’m Done Feeling Guilty For Not Visiting My Daughter’s Grave

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 

Trigger warning: child loss

When my daughter first died, it wasn’t unusual for me to visit the place she was laid to rest more than once throughout each day. I was in such a haze of disbelief because of the tragedy that I really needed those visiting hours at first. Visiting my daughter’s grave, however heart-shattering it was, brought me to grips with the reality of her death.

If no one else was around, I used to lay prostrate on the cold and loose dirt mound, and scream the most ferocious and painful of screams. It was heartbreaking having to leave my house just to feel a small piece of her near.

But as time went on and the weather grew harsher, some days I couldn’t make it to her grave at all. On the days that I missed, the guilt that unraveled inside of me was atrociously heavy … and I let it linger on for far too long.

I would conceive lies within my own head that redundantly whispered, “You carve out time for your living children, why is she any different? You are forgetting her. You need to go.”

It makes me sad to remember those punch-to-the-gut, heavy days, because now that I’ve lived with this grief for two years, I only visit my daughter’s grave two to three times a month. And it’s freeing not having to feel guilty about the days when I do not go.

To put it bluntly, I will not allow myself to sink into heavier grief than what I already feel. I’ve stripped away the lies, and now I uproot myself daily with the truth.

That is, I could never really forget her — even if I don’t visit her grave — for that solemn and bittersweet spot only holds her physical form. The one I nurtured, held, nursed and loved. But to me, her spirit is no longer there.

Her 22-inch memorial is just stone. The green grass that lays in place of a dirt mound is just grass. This place that I go to grieve is just a place, and it lives on without feelings.

Somehow, I had led myself to believe that my daughter knew I wasn’t visiting. But let’s be so brutally honest that it physically hurts me to my core: She is dead. She does not know if I visit or if I do not visit. Therefore, there’s no true validity in manifesting my own guilt. I’m only playing a losing game against myself.

So when I decide not to visit my daughter’s grave and the guilt seeps through, I’m blocking it out. And when the lies are intrusive, I’m telling them to piss off. Because I remember her in so many other ways.

As I write this, I am remembering her. When my living children smile their dimpled-cheeked, squinty-eyed smiles, I remember her. In the good works that I do to honor her memory, her spirit lives on. When I meet someone new who shares her name, I’m completely taken back and I could never not think of her.

So my own lies are just that … lies. There’s no reason for me to visit her grave when I don’t 110% want to. She does not know, and I shouldn’t burden myself with any more grief. I already have more than enough to handle.

My daughter’s memory vastly exceeds some slot of land where her 22-inch granite headstone resides. And I, her mother, am choosing to rest in that instead of some slew of fibs I’ve concocted within myself.

If I want to make the trip, then I will. But if I’m halfway up that long and windy dirt road and I just do not have it in me, then I will head home and simply say aloud, “Sorry, honey.” But that is all.

I’m done feeling guilty for not visiting my daughter’s grave. And I have the feeling she would be perfectly okay with that.

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