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Exploring Feelings of Guilt After a Loved One Has Died


Many emotions are experienced after the death of a loved one; denial, sadness, guilt, anger, relief, are just a few. This article will focus on one aspect, guilt. Guilt shows up in many ways at various times during the grieving process. Guilt is a normal feeling associated with grief and a process one must go through to progress through the grief process.

The feeling of guilt may begin to surface immediately after the death of your loved one. The only if I had ….is a common thought that races through our mind. We begin to think of all the things we could of, should of, done but didn’t. We ask ourselves over and over why, but there never seems to be an answer good enough for us to accept.

One aspect to keep in mind; feeling guilty and being guilty of something is not the same. Many times, especially during our grief work, this gets confused. Everyone has, at one time or another, done something that was hurtful to another. We have hurt and been hurt. Many times we did not realize what we were doing was hurtful to another. If we did, we may have acted differently. In our hectic and hurried life we make quick decisions, say things without further thought, then come to regret them at a later time. We are all human. The person who has died probably forgave you long ago. They may not have felt hurt by what you did or didn’t do. Being guilty of something is when you do something without a conscience. You do it intentionally without regard to the other person. This is not the type of guilt we are talking about, but somehow it gets mixed up with our grief.

If you are experiencing guilt for: not being there enough, not calling enough, not giving better care, not reconciling an aspect of your relationship, or any other reason, there are things you can do to help yourself through these feelings.

  • Acceptance. Accept yourself as the human you are. We all misjudge things. Even the person who has died misjudged things in their life.
  • Harmony. Free yourself from the conflicts going through your mind. When these conflicts come to mind, take the time to work through them. See them for what they are.
  • Forgiveness. It is never too late to ask for, or to grant, forgiveness to one another. Keep in mind that love is stronger than anything you may encounter. Love transcends death.

Guilt may surface many times during your grief work. No matter what stage it manifests in, work through it. If you need a non-judgmental ear to hear you, seek a licensed professional to assist you. They will let you speak about your feelings without making any judgments. Be easy on yourself. The death of a loved one is not a painless time. Hold onto the joyful memories and treasure them. Your memories are what you can cherish forever.


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