Guilty of Causing My Son’s Death due to COVID19
By Barrington H. Brennen, September 4,
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Not long ago, a mother came to me in tears seeking
help. Why? Because she believed she “caused” the death
of her son who died the week before from the corona
virus 2019. She was distraught and deeply depressed.
She had not slept since the day he died. The pressure
was great because the entire family got COVID19 and not
only did her son die but his girlfriend, and her mother
died of the virus a few days after her son’s death.
She was adamant that her son, and the rest of her family
did not take the vaccine against the virus because she
believed that her faith was stronger than any other drug
and she had doubts about the effectiveness of the
vaccine. Not only was she against the taking of the
vaccine, but she was also against the use of face masks,
physical distancing, and crowd control. She told me
that she frequently attended large gatherings of people
(social and religious) within close proximity of each
other without any care in the world or caution, nor
following the government’s protocols.
She thought it will never happen to her because her
faith was strong and she lives a decent life. What
really perked up my ears was when she told me about the
time she attended a church service in Nassau where the
pastor insisted that people in the congregation, sitting
closely together, takes of their masks. The preacher
proclaimed that wearing of a mask and taking the vaccine
is a lack of faith in God. Sadly, that pastor contracted
COVID19 and became very ill but survived.
What she was hearing from the preacher really reinforced
her beliefs and strengthened her determination that her
family will not express doubt in God by wearing of masks
and getting vaccinated. But it did not take too long
before something did happen. One day her son came home
not feeling well and he said his girlfriend was also
sick. At first, this caring mother did not think it
would be the virus until the day she felt unwell. After
going to the doctor, she learned that she and her son,
his girlfriend and her mother all tested positive with
COVID19. Today, out of the four of them she is the only
alive. Now she feels guilty of causing the death of her
son. She is now wearing a mask in public, physical
distancing, and washing her hands frequently. She has
not yet decided if she will take the vaccine. However,
she is now obeying the protocols to protect against the
Understandably, this mother is in deep emotional pain.
There are many stories like this in The Bahamas, and
around the world. It is normal to feel guilty if we
really did something wrong. In the 2014 article
entitled “Guilt and Grief: coping with the shoulda,
woulda, couldas,” by Litsa Williams, she writes:
“Sometimes we fail to do things we wish we had done or
should have done. That may be as large as a grievous
error in judgment or mistake that led to a death. It
could be as small as something hurtful we said, or
something meaningful we failed to say.” Sometimes we
feel guilty because we only feel we did something
wrong. Note that because you feel guilty doesn’t mean
you are guilty. Litsa Williams states “Our irrational
brain will find just about anything to feel guilty
about. Despite being irrational, this guilt can be
consuming.” What will be the result of guilt feelings
in this mother’s life? Will it prevent her from moving
forward, working, and serving others? Will it cause a
long depression and painful emotions?
Here are a few tips by psychologist Litsa Williams for
persons dealing with guilt.
Acknowledge that guilt is a normal grief emotion and
don’t let others minimize the validity of your grief
Consider what your guilt is all about. Is it
rational? Is it irrational? Is it about control?
Talk it over with others. Though you don’t want
people minimizing your feelings, talking about guilt
can help you reflect on your grief. A good
counselor or support group is a great environment to
talk about feelings
Examine your thoughts. Often our guilt thoughts,
whether rational or irrational, start to consume
us. They can drag us down into one of those
bottomless black holes – the kind that are full of
isolation, despair, and far too much wine and ben &
jerry’s ice cream.
If your guilt feelings are irrational, admit it.
This doesn’t mean dismissing your feelings of
guilt. It means acknowledging that, though you feel
guilty, you may not actually be guilty. Some common
examples are acknowledging you did the best you
could with the information you had at the time, you
couldn’t predict the future, there were many other
factors at play other than your behaviors, etc.
Forgive yourself. Easier said than done, right?
Remember that forgiveness does not mean condoning or
excusing. Forgiveness can mean accepting that we
may have done something we regret, but finding new
attitude and perspective toward ourselves in
relation to that action. It doesn’t mean we forget,
but means we find a way to move forward.” Do
something with your guilt.
Whether rational or irrational, you can use your
guilt to help others. What you do may come out of
things you have learned.
would encourage everyone to be wise during this most
difficult time in our country and the world. Seriously
consider taking the vaccine against COVID19 as your role
of being a caring citizen and loving and kind to one
another. If there is a medical reason you are afraid to
and cannot take the vaccine, you can still be wise by
wearing your mask, practicing physical distancing,
sanitizing your hands and food, avoid attending large
gatherings, especially those where people gather in
Do not listen to so-called spiritual leaders who make a
mockery of faith by stating it is a lack faith to wear
masks or take the vaccine. Remember this truth. These
same spiritual leaders will not allow their faith to
prevent them from washing their hands of dirt before
they eat a meal or leaving a bathroom. Faith dose not
conflict with common sense.
Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.
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