My Child's Brain Injury: Coping with Guilt

Vicki L. Schmall, Ph.D.
My Child's Brain Injury: Coping with Guilt

Many parents feel they could have done something to prevent their child’s injury. Some even feel the brain injury is punishment for some previous misdeed. Many times, guilt is linked to the expectation that we as parents should be able to keep our children from harm. But sometimes bad things just happen. They are out of our control.

All parents feel guilty from time to time. It’s normal. But excessive guilt can eat away at your self-esteem and even get in the way of being an effective advocate for your child.

Acting out of guilt won’t make you feel any less guilty. Instead, you can end up feeling resentful, which brings a whole different set of difficulties.

Some people compensate for guilt by trying to do more now to make up for it. They become “human doings” instead of “human beings.” Other people deal with guilt by punishing themselves, depriving themselves of things that give them joy. In either case, this can lead to an imbalance between what you think you “should do” and what you are actually doing. To keep from getting bogged down or overwhelmed by guilt, try these strategies that have worked for other parents:

Additional resource:
Wade, Shari L. , and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. 2002. Putting the Pieces Together: An Online Intervention for Pediatric Brain Injury. Materials adapted from study.

Posted on BrainLine June 28, 2017.

This article is based upon the writings of Vicki L. Schmall, Ph.D., and is adapted with her permission. For more information, please refer to “The Caregiver Helpbook,” copyright 2000, written by Vicki L. Schmall, Ph.D., Marilyn Cleland, R.N., and Marilynn Sturdevant, R.N., M.S.W., L.C.S.W, published in Portland, Oregon, by Legacy Health System.

From Brain Injury Partners: Navigating the School System, the Oregon Center for Applied Science, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Comments (3)

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I didn’t cause my childs illness but I did not go to her house after being asked several times to go check on her which caused her to become unconscious and suffer an anoxic brain injury. Now she will deal with this for the rest of her life. My heart is broken and the guilt is overwhelming.

This article is so full of actionable ideas! Thank you for presenting such a hard
issue in such a meaningful and helpful way. When a child is hurt, there's no end
to the ways a parent can torment his or herself with guilt.

Thank you this post has really helped me.