Grief is something everyone will experience in their lifetime. It hits us all differently and can pop up at any time. Even when we think we are “over” our grief, something triggers us and we are right back in the throes of it again. The truth is, grief stays with us forever. It transforms us. We can learn to live with it and we should not try to push it aside. It’s important to recognize it, feel it, and honor it.
One of the biggest roadblocks to processing grief is guilt. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the author of On Death and Dying and creator of the five stages of grief, states, “Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.” If you are grieving and you find yourself feeling guilty, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions: “What did I expect of myself that I was unable to do?” and “Were those expectations realistic?” That can help you figure out why you are feeling guilty.
Sometimes we hold onto guilt as a way of subconsciously holding onto our loved one. However, releasing the guilt does not mean you stop loving, missing, or honoring your loved one. Here are some tips to help you process your grief and let go of the guilt you are feeling:
- Write a letter to your loved one after they pass away. Tell them everything you are feeling and experiencing. Tell them anything you wish you had told them while they were still alive.
- Write a letter to yourself. In this letter, forgive yourself. Release the guilt and embrace forgiveness.
- Do something to honor your loved one. Plant a flower that they loved, tell their story, talk about them to others. There are so many ways to honor someone. Make it personal and make it special.
- Visualize saying good bye if you were not with them in the end. Imagine being there with them. What would you have said?
- Replace any negative guilt feelings you are having with a positive memory of your loved one. Keep those memories alive.
These are just a few tips to help alleviate some of the guilt you may be experiencing associated with grief. If you are having difficulty processing your grief or letting go of your guilt, please reach out for professional help. It is always ok to ask for help!