Some of us harmed others due to error, negligence, or impairment. Others were not at fault but nonetheless carry grief or guilt. Sometimes the question of fault is unclear and subject to interpretation. The Hyacinth Fellowship is open to you so long as you did not intend harm.

Accountability means that we accept responsibility for choices or actions within our control. We encourage you to think deeply about why and how the harm occurred, what if anything you need to change in yourself, and how you want to respond to this tragedy.

At the time of the accident, were you abusing alcohol or drugs? Were you sleep-deprived? Distracted? Angry? Showing off? Has age or illness dulled your senses or reaction time? Make the changes needed to reduce the chances of another accident.

Some try to avoid this process. Well-meaning family and friends who feel protective of you might even encourage avoidance by saying, “It was just an accident,” or “It’s a sad situation, but you need to move on.” When we hide from reality, however, we are likely to prolong our suffering and we place ourselves and others at greater risk of future incidents.

On the other hand, some of us blame ourselves for incidents that were not our fault. It’s not wrong to feel guilty – it’s a sign of how much we care. Philosophers call this “non-moral guilt,” because we did nothing wrong. Another reason for feeling guilty under these conditions is that we resist recognizing how little control we have at times. We tell ourselves, “There must have been something I could have done.” Giving up the illusion of control is so frightening that self-blame may be preferable.

Many of us ask ourselves why these accidents had to happen. We tell ourselves, if only I had left ten minutes earlier, or if only I had recognized the dangers. If you find yourself obsessed with the “if onlys” and “what ifs,” consider talking about this with your therapist.

Some believe that accidents are God’s will; others believe they are the result of chance. Some believe they are the outcomes of unconscious wishes or karma or something that happened in a past life. The beliefs we hold affect the way we respond. A popular belief today is that there is no such thing as an accident because someone or something is always to blame. Whatever you believe, consider how it affects your feelings, your responses, and your willingness to accept compassion.

Endless self-punishment serves no one. And skirting responsibility or avoiding the truth serves no one. Acknowledging the truth, feeling your feelings, seeking support, and taking steps to make amends will let you regain your self-regard and will create kinder, more caring, and safer communities. We are so much more than our mistakes.

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