Guilt is probably the hardest feeling to deal with after a death. It eats away at you. Grief and guilt go together.
Guilt is one of the most powerful negative reactions to the loss of a loved one, equalled only by anger as a common grief experience. After someone close to us dies, we think back to events, conversations, or modes of behavior we engaged in before the death. We examine the way in which we believe we played a vital role in that person’s final decline, accident, or illness. Often, we assume responsibility for the death, which can range from thinking we were unkind or unhelpful to thinking we actually caused the death.
Regardless of how or why our loved one died, we sift through the evidence of past behavior, giving ourselves reasons to be miserable. We become tormented by our own perceived failures, omissions, insults, poor judgment, or unwise choices.
But the fact is that very few of us have a legitimate reason for feeling any significant guilt at all.
When someone dies, our world is in disarray, and our lives suddenly seem unpredictable. Our reality is turned upside down. By feeling guilty, we give ourselves a sense of having control over the situation. If we can assume guilt for the death, then we can impose some order on chaos. We create cause and effect, saying to ourselves, “Because I did this, then this happened.” But these self-inflicted emotional wounds plunge us even further into despair. What can we do to relieve ourselves from the torment of these self-accusations?
Feeling guilty doesn’t help anyone
Say to yourself – I did my best, it was not my fault
You would forgive others, so why not forgive yourself?
Some common causes of guilt are:
Not being nicer to the person
Not spending more time with a sick relative before they died
Not appreciating the person more
Having had an argument prior to the death
Hating the hospital visits
Resenting the extra chores and responsibilities the person’s illness brought on..
Regrets are wishes. You wish you had done something.
Make a list of everything you feel guilty about or have regrets for. Analyse your list and note which items on that list are guilt, and which are regret. Which items are stirring up more bad feelings for you? Are some resolved already?
Write a letter to the person who died.