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.