Tag Archives: guilt

Regret: “If Only” “What If”

guiltWhen a loved one dies it is not unusual for some regret and guilt to walk with you in your  grief journey. As a survivor you may tend to blame yourself for something you think you did or did not do that may have caused the death. For you to help yourself accept the death sometimes it is necessary to replay the time, events, and the circumstances leading up to the death in order to be able to move from denial to acceptance. During that time of replay it is possible for you to find something that you feel guilty about or think if I can change what I did maybe I can change the results and bring my loved one back.

Guilt is a strong emotion because you are in an extremely vulnerable state. Though guilt, regret and self-blame are natural feelings and come with your grief they are most times not logical...YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR THE DEATH OF YOUR LOVED ONE.
Guilt can be described in 5 different areas of our life:
#1. SURVIVOR GUILT- BEING ALIVE WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS DIED. You may find yourself asking…”how could he/she die and I still be alive…why them and not me? Did I cause this death?
#2. RELIEF GUILT- This is when you feel guilty for being relieved when someone loved has died. This often occurs when a person has been sick along time…you may not miss the suffering and daily care giving. Also you recognize you will not miss certain aspects of that person (physical, verbal or alcohol abuse, etc.)
#3. LONG STANDING PERSONALITY FACTORS- some people have felt guilty all their lives for one reason or another, this is part of their personality.
#4. JOY-GUILT- experiencing any kind of joy, pleasure or just being relaxed and not thinking of your loved one can cause you to feel guilty that you are not grieving at that moment. As you move through your grief journey you will have more moments of this which means you are healing, but will never forget that person.
#5. MAGICAL THINKING GUILT- this means thinking that something you said or did somehow caused the death of you loved one…an argument, bad feelings, something said in the heat of the moment. REMEMBER YOU DID NOT CAUSE THE DEATH.
With guilt, “the gift that keeps on giving”, there are many ways to work through this emotion:
Look for a good support person to talk to. Someone who is compassionate, patient,  non-judgmental, and a good listener.
Don’t allow others to explain your feelings away. While they might mean well this does not allow you to “talk out” what you think and feel.
Allow yourself some “review time” and continue to remind yourself that there are some things in life you cannot change.
Do not repress or ignore feelings of guilt. Physical and other emotional problems could result.
Forgive yourself, this is more important than forgiving anyone else because you have to live with yourself.
Get guilt out of you system by writing about it. This will also help you take a more objective view of it. Make a list of “those things I think I DIDN’T DO” and another list of “those things I DID DO”. The “did do” list will always be longer!
Self-forgiveness, even though there is nothing to forgive responds well when feelings are shared. A grief support group can help with the feeling that you are not alone. Also if feelings of guilt or regret are complicating you healing, don’t be ashamed to find a trained grief counselor to help you.
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Misconceptions of Grief

Misconception #1
Grief and Mourning are the same thing.

Grief is the internal container. It holds all of your thought, feelings inside yourself.
Mourning is when you take the grief you have inside and express it outside of yourself. Another way of defining it is “Grief Gone Public”
Misconception #2
Grief and mourning progress in predictable, orderly stages.

You may find yourself trying to self prescribe your grief experience and force yourself to be in a “stage”. Sometimes your emotions may follow each other within a short period of time; or at other times two or more emotions may be present simultaneously. Remember -do not try to determine where “you should” be. Just allow yourself to be naturally where you are in the process. Everyone mourns in different ways.
Misconception #3
You should move away from grief not toward it
Our Society often encourages prematurely moving away from grief instead of toward it. Do not buy into statements such as “You should move on”, or “they would want you to go on with your life”, or “get back to normal”, or “You should be over it by now”. Masking or moving away from your grief creates anxiety, confusion and depression. You must continually remind yourself that leaning toward, not away from the pain will facilitate eventual healing.  
Misconception #4
Tears of Grief are only a sign of weakness
.
Tears of grief are often associated with personal inadequacy and weakness. The worst thing you can do, however, is to allow this judgment to prevent you from crying. Don’t buy into the advice you might receive such as “Tears won’t bring him/her back” or “he or she wouldn’t want you to cry”. Crying is nature’s way of releasing internal tension in your body and allows you to communicate a need to be comforted.
Misconception #5
After someone dies, the goal should be to “get over” your grief as soon as possible
.

You will never “get over” your grief, but you will learn to live with it. The goal is to become “
RECONCILED OR TO REACH RECONCILATION”; which means “learning to live without the physical presence of that person but with the memories and the loved you shared as you move into your new life”.
                       Written by Alan Wolfelt from the book: Understanding Your Grief

Regret . . . “If only . . . .” “What if . . .” . . . .Guilt

When a loved one dies it is not unusual for some regret and guilt to walk with you in your grief journey. As a survivor you tend to blame yourself for something you think you did or did not do that may have caused the death. For you to help yourself accept the death sometimes it is necessary to replay the time, events, and the circumstances leading up to the death in order to be able to move from denial to acceptance. During that time of replay it is possible for the you to find something to blame yourself for; possibly thinking if I can change what I did maybe I can change the results and bring my loved one back.

Guilt is a strong emotion because you are in an extremely vulnerable state. Though the guilt, regret, and self-blame are natural feelings they are most times not logical… you are not to blame for the death of your loved one.

With guilt, “the gift that keeps on giving”, there are many ways to work through this emotion:

Look for a good support person to talk to. Someone who is compassionate, patient, and non-judgmental. A support person who is a good listener.

Don’t allow others to explain your feelings away. While they might mean well this does not allow you to “talk out” what you think and feel.

Allow yourself some “review time” and continue to remind yourself that there are some things in life you cannot change.

Do not repress or ignore feelings of guilt. Physical and other emotional problems could result.

Forgive yourself, this is more important than forgiving anyone else because you have to live with yourself.

Get guilt out of your system by writing about it. This will also help you take a more objective view of it.

Do not drive yourself crazy with unanswerable “Why? Questions” and do not assume that you are so powerful that you have control over death.

Self-forgiveness, even though there is nothing to forgive, responds well when feelings are shared. A grief support group can help with the feeling that you are not alone. Also if feelings of guilt or regret are complicating your healing, don’t be ashamed to find a trained grief counselor.