home of loving support for bereaved parents

Question of the Month

Guilt From Difficult Decisions. My baby died after a long struggle and after we decided to remove him from live support. How can I get over the guilt of making that decision and the feeling that maybe we should have done more to help him live?

From Laura Randolph . . .

Like you, my husband and I made the decision to remove our baby from life support. There are still fleeting moments when I question our decision, especially when I hear of some miraculous recovery by a child on life support. During these moments I remind myself of the painful reality of our sonís condition and the odds of recovery or survival the doctors gave us. I also remind myself of the children on life support who never make a miraculous recovery and who continue to suffer.

For me, it is also helpful to acknowledge that if circumstances had been different we would have made a different decision. For example, if our son had not been deprived of oxygen for so long, there might have been some hope for recovery and we might not have chosen to disconnect life support.

It helps to remember that there were reasons behind our decision and it was not made lightly. Sometimes I find I only remember the sweetness of my sonís smell and the softness of his skin and then wonder why we made the decision we did. It is then that I must remind myself of the reality of his condition even though it is painful to recall.

I remind myself of our emotional state at that time and that we made the best decision we could based on the facts we were given. When the guilt is particularly bad and I am truly questioning our decision, I ask our son for forgiveness if we made the wrong decision and pray that he knows we made the decision out of love and were only doing what we truly believed was best for him.

A book that has helped me deal with lingering doubts about our decision to disconnect life support is "Fly Away Home" by Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D. It is available from Centering Corporation, which can be contacted online at or by phone (402) 553-1200. Reading this book helped me resolve many issues surrounding our decision and perhaps you will find that true for you as well.

My heart goes out to you as you work through these emotions on your journey to peace.

Laura Randolph

Ann DouglasFrom Ann Douglas . . .

Making the decision to remove a loved one from life support is one of the most difficult decisions a family member can be asked to make. There is no happy outcome. You are being forced to choose between two unhappy outcomes.

Rather than second-guessing the decision you made, try to focus on the fact that you made the decision that you made out of love for your son. If you find that you simply can't make peace with your decision on your own, you may want to set up an appointment to talk through your concerns with a counselor who specializes in bereavement issues. Sometimes these issues are simply too difficult to work through on our own.

Ann Douglas

Marilyn HeavilinFrom Marilyn Heavilin . . .

No matter how a child dies, I believe every parent feels some guilt because they feel they should have done more.

I have a strong belief in God and I feel that even if we remove someone from life support, God is not limited by our actions. If He chose to have your child continue to live, it would happen. I believe removing someone from life support is not giving up, it is giving over.

I think it will help for you to talk your feelings out with someone who was not closely involved with your baby, perhaps a good friend, a minister, or a counselor. It is obvious to me that this was an extremely hard decision for you and you chose to remove the life support because you loved your baby so much, you didn't want him to suffer any more. Only a very loving and conscientious parent can make such a decision.

Much love,
Marilyn Heavilin

Sherokee IlseFrom Sherokee Ilse . . .

You have many choices in your quest to honor and remember your baby on special days. Visiting the site of their burial is not the only way to be connected. You can have a birthday cake (my boys and I did this for years) or a little celebration that you create which has meaning for you and your family. Giving money or toys to a special charity can also have meaning. Or, what about lighting a candle that is only lit for your baby on special days or for special moments. Send someone a card in their memory, write a poem or letter to them, write a note to your special nurse or doctor who took care of you around the time of their death, buy a book or newsletter subscription for a local support group in memory of your baby, or create a special event (golf tournament, plant fundraiser for example) and donate the money to your favorite charity such as First Candle, a national organization which helps family after infant loss including miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS and early infant death.

If however, visiting a cemetery is something you wish to do why not find a local cemetery that has a baby section. You may find a baby grave that touches you - maybe an old one that has been or a general grave, or a special angel or bench that can become your special place to go. This way you can honor not only your baby but others who have gone before.

There are so many things you can do to make these days special--from saying a special prayer on those days to buying a bench at your local cemetery to honor your baby and all babies who have died or beginning an annual fundraiser near the anniversary/birthdate. The choices are many and the opportunities great. Use your imagination and follow your heart; you will figure out what makes the most sense to you.

Sherokee Ilse


By Dezign