Ashes of Abuse: Guilt

You have heard that frequently children whose parents get divorced blame themselves.  “If only I had gotten better grades,” or “If I didn’t argue so much with my brothers,” they think.  Children who are abused blame themselves as well.  I think it is not only a misperception but also a coping mechanism.  After all which is more difficult to accept? The idea the people who are supposed to love you and take care of you are hurting you in ways you can’t begin to understand and you are powerless to stop it or to believe that somehow you caused it, and if you can just figure out what you did wrong it will stop?

As adults, if our parents divorced we can grasp that it was not our fault. We understand how relationships work.  However, for adults who were abused as children, it can be difficult to let go of the guilt and shame.

Some Day

“Tell me again,”
I say and they do,
“It’s not your fault.”

I picture them in my mind,
my husband,
my Bishop,
my therapist,
my friends

I see the words on their lips,
I hear their words with my ears.
“It’s not your fault”

But my heart
. . .does not hear
The little child in me
. . .does not see. . .
Somewhere deep inside,
…I know
       It was my fault,
and I need
    to be Punished.

“Tell me again,” I say. And they do…
Some day I will believe them.

Some day,
. . .but not today.


  1. Dear Leslie,I will ditto "storytellERdoc" and hope that he does not mind.I also want to say "Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays, Leslie!" My life is improved because you are in it.Lots of love, a.

  2. This is such a powerful poem and common survivor issue. I used to feel guilty for EVERYTHING…including just being alive taking up space. I'm glad I've worked through a lot of that.Thanks so much for joining us for THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. I just got the carnival edition posted up at my blog. Welcome! I hope you join us again. I really value your writing and your insights.

  3. This is such a great poem. I've gone through this process myself. I forget what the psychology term for it is but it IS, actually, a coping mechanism. It gives the child at least some illusion of control.But we HAD no control as children. And it was NOT your fault. Thanks so much for your courage in sharing. And thanks for letting us use this great post for THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. I'm glad you joined us!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s