In my humble opinion, western society drastically underestimates the magnitude of grief. Losing someone you love can be one of the most traumatic events many people will face. Death and grief are challenging in so many ways. If you are here because you are lost in grief, you know what I’m talking about.
In my coaching practice, I set up weekly calls with those who are grieving. Feelings of intense guilt comes up for a lot of people. What I do is help them understand the emotion of guilt, where it comes from, and why it makes living with guilt so difficult.
Emotions can be tricky, and the mind can work in ways that don’t seem to make sense. I’ve found it helpful to educate myself about what is happening. When I educate myself, I begin to understand the “why” behind the emotion, and it can make the emotion feel less intense. It’s what works for me.
If you are feeling guilty, let me start by saying that guilt is a natural reaction to loss. You’ve lost someone you love. Your heart aches and your mind is constantly spinning, trying to figure out what has happened. You want to know how to make the pain stop because you don’t like feeling awful. This IS grief. We all share this experience. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not alone.
THE GUILT PROCESS
As you sit with your grief, your mind begins to replay all the events you can remember leading up to the loss. You go over every detail and try to determine what you could have done differently.
You’ve been thrust into the unfamiliar world of grief. You want to understand why it happened and how it could have been prevented. You analyze every possible scenario to try and convince yourself that if the circumstances were different, the outcome would be different.
Your world has been turned upside down. The world you knew no longer makes sense. It’s unsettling because we all want the world to make sense. When it doesn’t, we feel out of sorts.
Our minds next try to process what has happened, and who is to blame. Here’s why we blame. If we can blame someone, find fault, or find where things went wrong, it would be easier to make sense of what happened. I’ve found that most people blame others first, (which can show up as intense anger) and then begin to blame themselves. When we turn our anger inward and blame ourselves, it doesn’t feel good. It hurts.
(Brene Brown says that placing blame is a way to discharge uncomfortable emotions like discomfort and pain.)
HOW TO PROCESS GUILT
Let me reiterate, feeling guilt is very normal. It is often necessary to process your grief. So, the next time you lie awake in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling, and wondering why you can’t sleep, (even though you are exhausted), you will know why. You are actively processing your grief.
Instead of thinking something is wrong or that you might be losing your mind, remind yourself that processing guilt is a necessary part is the process. Remember this. Every night you lay awake, you are moving closer to resolving the pain you feel.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You may be asking yourself, “What can I do?” First, give yourself grace. Instead of blaming yourself, take a moment to remind yourself that hurting yourself and finding fault for what you did or didn’t do, won’t help.
No matter what happened, even if you were at fault, blaming yourself won’t change the outcome. Also, keep in mind that you only have one perspective; your own. There are things you may not know. You can’t make a judgement without having all the facts. Let go of the judgement and blame. It won’t help.
What you want is to have your loved one back. You want them with you, here in this world. It hurts deeply. I’m sorry.
The second thing you can do is sit in the pain, recognize that you are feeling guilty, and remind yourself that you did the best you could at the time. Forgive yourself for what you feel you should have done. Forgive yourself for what you may have done wrong. Forgive yourself for not being better.
The third thing you can do is say the words, “Beating myself up will not bring (insert name) back. I choose to give myself grace one moment at a time.”
Then put both your hands over your heart, bow your head and say, “I forgive you.”
Finally, let all the emotions surface and know that each time you repeat these words, you are one step closer to resolving the pain of grief.
If you are reading this article, you are NOT ALONE anymore. I am with you in your grief. I want to help. I created Grief INSPIRED because I believe no one should have to grieve alone and that includes you.
If you would like support, leave a comment below. I’d love to connect with you. Together we can heal, one day at a time.
In Love and Support,
Founder of Grief INSPIRED