December 26, 2020
Grief carries with it a multitude of conflicting emotions—and one of the most overpowering is the feeling of guilt.\
Those who have lost a loved one often find themselves struggling with the idea that their loss is somehow their own fault—that there’s something they could have said or done to prevent their loved one from dying.
Sometimes, feelings of grief can be situated in something real. All of us make mistakes, and we can say or do things that hurt the people we love. The feelings of guilt you experience during the mourning process may stem from a memory of mistakes you made in the past.
Just as often, though, feelings of guilt are less rational: As you grieve, you may talk yourself into the notion that you could have been there for your loved one or could have helped them receive a different kind of medical care.
The bottom line is that guilt and grief go hand in hand—but what can you do about it?
The first step is simply acknowledging the way you feel; guilt is an emotion, and the best way to handle any emotion is to first validate it.
• Consider what your guilt is really about. Reflect on the idea that we all crave order, and your guilt may simply be a subconscious way to make some sense of your loved one’s death.
• Find someone you can talk to about your feelings of guilt; this may be a close friend or it may be a therapist.
• As you think, talk, and process, work your way toward a place of self-forgiveness.
If your guilt is irrational, you will hopefully have people in your life who will tell you so, encouraging you to move on. And if it’s based in something real, you can seek a place where you either make amends or discover a new perspective—learning and growing from your painful experience.
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