I've just read a book called The Perks of Being a Wallflower in which a teenage boy blames himself for his aunt's death. We're watching a television series called Requiem in which a young woman blames herself for the disappearance of a child twenty years earlier.
Guilt is a dreadful thing to live with it particularly if there is no justification for it. But of course it doesn't feel like that at the time. To the 'guilty' person there is justification and he/she should feel bad because he/she deserves it.
These two instances coming so close together reminded me of times from my childhood where I blamed myself for someone's death.
Growing up I lived with my mum, my grandparents and my great-gran, who had her bed in the front room. We hadn't long had a television and it was still exciting for all the family - maybe not my grandfather - to gather in the other front room to watch television, in this particular case, Coronation Street. This Monday evening my gran sent me to call my 88-year-old great-gran. I was cross because I'd already settled down nice and comfy so I hurried into the other front room, shouted, 'Coronation Street's on,' and rushed out again.
A few moments later we heard a scream. My great-gran had fallen and, it turned out, broken her hip. She never really recovered and died a few months later.
'If I'd not been so grumpy. If I'd stopped and waited to make sure she'd heard. If I'd stayed and helped her make her way in. If I'd done anything except what I did she would still be alive.' I was about ten at the time. I never told anybody what I felt.
A few years later I was walking my dog down the road past some neighbours who were standing, arm in arm, by their gate. The man asked me, 'How's your Uncle Jim?'
'Oh, he died,' I said.
The man went pale and shaky. His wife took a closer grip on him and, as she turned to take him back inside, said to me, 'I wasn't going to tell him until he was feeling stronger.' (It seemed he was a close friend of Uncle Jim's and had been very unwell himself.)
I walked away convinced I would now be responsible for the death of another person. I don't know if he died; I avoided walking that road afterwards.
I deserved all the bad feelings because I was a bad thoughtless person.