Elizabeth Kubler Ross has been quoted as saying, “Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion to death.” and for those who grieve, guilt is something that many experience. We can add it to the mounting barrage of emotions that threaten to engulf us after the loss of a loved one.
Guilt in the context of grief is probably best described as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some perceived wrong. It matters not if it’s imagined or not because in our minds it’s as real as you or I. We so readily judge ourselves for not doing more, not knowing, not being, not protecting our loved ones as we should have been able to. It can be so crippling and runs rampant in our thoughts often for many years. It dumps us into the depths of despair and we easily become distraught as the tremendous burden of our guilt tramples through our heart and soul.
Hindsight makes everything crystal clear. We can so readily see how things could have been SO different.
She would still be here if I’d done things differently.
If only I’d made that phone call.
I should have made her go to the doctor sooner.
I didn’t do enough, why didn’t I do more?
I wish I hadn’t left him alone.
It was my fault I encouraged him to do that.
He wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for me.
I should have known he was feeling that way.
Guilt drains our energy and saps our soul. We so want to escape the dungeons of despair we’re in but no matter how many people try and convince us otherwise they persist. We rehash everything over and over again. It is such a heavy burden to carry day in and day out. We are so so tired of it all but feel totally powerless about how to begin to release such powerful and overwhelming feelings.
For myself I felt tremendous guilt at my son’s death, it had a stranglehold in my life. I raged war in my mind over and over about how I had let him down. I couldn’t get past the debilitating feelings of doing wrong by him, for him. I didn’t consciously think I was punishing myself but in reality what purpose does my guilt serve? No matter how many times I replayed it over and over I finally realized no matter what I felt or what I told myself I couldn’t change what had happened. My guilty thoughts were taking me into the past as if somehow I could alter my now and change my future. I could never do that. Releasing my feelings of guilt has taken me time and a lot of gentleness for me.
It’s such a hard thing to bring forgiveness into our hearts for ourselves. Not for all the things we didn’t do but for doing the very best we could do at that time, in those circumstances and to let go of trying to control that which we have absolutely no control over. It is an act of extreme compassion and deep love, something we would so readily bestow on others.
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