Are you lugging around feelings of guilt about someone important to you who died?
Are those feelings hanging around long after you—and others who care about you—think they should be gone? If so, there’s a possibility that what you’re calling guilt is something else.
If guilt isn’t the right word to define what you’ve been feeling, it may be adding to the burden you’re carrying.
Here is how to get rid of feelings of guilt.
Try this little experiment
Think about the person and the reason you’ve been saying that you feel guilty. Then ask yourself, “Is there anything I wish I’d said or done differently? Is there anything I wish the other person had said or done differently? Are there some things I wish had happened better or more often?”
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then it’s very likely that guilt is the wrong word to define what you’re feeling. Why? Because guilt implies intent to harm.
So ask yourself one more question: “Did I do anything with intent to harm the person who died?” If your answer to that question is NO, then you really need to wonder if guilt is the right word to use.
Here’s an example of how the word guilt gets falsely applied
You get a call from your mother telling you that grandma isn’t doing too well. It isn’t feasible for you to make the trip to see her, so you decide you’ll go see her later in the year. But her condition worsens and she dies without you having visited her.
You might tell us you feel guilty, and we might ask you, “Did you NOT visit her with intent to harm her?” And you would reply, “No, it was an awkward time for me—but if I’d known how close she was to the end, I would have dropped everything and gone to see her.”
When you identify anything you wish had been different, better, or more, you are on the right path to being able to feel “complete” with what you now realize is unfinished for you in relationship to the person who died.
Sadly, you can’t get them back and talk to them in person, but you can do the next best thing. With the guidance of the actions of the Grief Recovery Method, you can communicate [indirectly] any apologies, forgiveness, or significant emotional statements that express the real feelings you have about what did and didn’t happen.
When you do that, you lift the false burden of guilt, which allows you to retain the fond memories you have of that person without them turning painful for you.