Dealing With Guilt After You’ve Lost a Loved One

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Portrait of young sad ten girl sitting with suitcase outdoors on the railway at the day time. Concept of sorrow.

When you lose a loved one, it can be incredibly difficult to carry on, as you’ll find yourself feeling empty and possibly depressed for a long time following. This is a normal part of the grieving process, and by facing and embracing these emotions, you will gradually be able to heal and remember that person in a more positive way.
But another common emotion to be struggling with at this point is guilt. While this is another common emotion, it is not as adaptive and can be unhealthy. Here we will look at where guilt comes from and what you can do about it.
Why You Feel Guilt
When someone dies of natural causes or an accident, it is no one’s fault. However, it is very easy to end up blaming yourself. Perhaps you think if you hadn’t called them over, then they never would have been in the road when that car came. Maybe you think you could have encouraged them to go to the doctor sooner.
This is one cause of guilt during grief, but it is far from the only one. Likewise, it is also common to feel guilt over the way you’ve handled their death. Perhaps you feel guilty for not being sadder. Maybe you feel guilty for not being more supportive of your family. Or maybe you feel guilty years later for moving on with your life. Sometimes, you can simply feel guilty for being alive when your loved one isn’t.
All these things are very normal, but they are not healthy, and ultimately, they need to be overcome in order for you to move on with your life.
How to Overcome Guilt
Overcoming guilt is about learning to forgive yourself and let go. Because, ultimately, your loved one would undoubtedly prefer that you were happy and getting on with your life as you should.
This means sitting down and honestly assessing your feelings. Of course, if events had been different, then your loved one may have died, or they may not have. You could not have known the future, and you acted as you thought was best at the time. Likewise, everyone else is equally culpable for their actions or inactions, and most likely, nothing anyone did would have made a difference anyway.
Likewise, you should not be guilty for being alive or for being happy. If anything, you should cherish your happiness even more out of respect for those who don’t have it. You owe it to your family who are still alive to be the happiest and best version of yourself.
Obviously, it is easy to say these things and less easy to believe them. Consider seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist, and they will be able to help you come to terms with reality and adopt better coping strategies.
Citizen Counselling and Coaching have a number of our counsellors and coaches in Birmingham who can provide support for grief, loss and bereavement. This can include patient one to one support, creating practical coping strategies and through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others. We also have specialist counsellors who work with children aged 4 upwards.
Our ‘My Grief & Loss Coach’ online programme and Coaching was designed for time poor busy people looking to manage their grief and loss or for those who don’t feel they can talk with a counsellor or coach one to one at this stage.

Our Grief and Loss page can explain more

You will find our online programme ‘My Grief & Loss Coach here