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Guilt and Grief

Guilt is often associated with grief. When we share that we feel guilty about our loss, chances are we'll get this response, ““you shouldn’t feel that way, it wasn’t your fault”.

But we do feel it. Guilt is a feeling, like sadness or anger. There is nothing wrong with feeling guilty, it's a natural part of grief, but it's not healthy to STAY in guilt.

I learned this early on when I lost Keven. I knew that not only was it obvious to me that I had done something wrong - but everyone else would see it too. My guilt came from feeling like I didn’t do enough to help him, leaving him alone that morning and having a gun in the house that he used to end his life!

This was heavy, I was guilty! I had done everything I could, I left him alone for only a few minutes - I could justify those things. But the gun - how could I ever forgive myself?

I realized I needed to deal with this immediately or it would be the end of me. It literally may have killed me if I allowed myself to stay in guilt and blame myself. Would Keven still be here today if not for my gun? Honestly, I think he would have found another way. He was done. As much as I loved him and wanted him to feel better - he continued to feel worse to the point that taking his own life seemed like the only option.

Guilt felt like salt being thrown into the open wound in my heart. I had to forgive myself and accept that I did my best and it was not my fault his life ended as it did. This took a lot of practice, a lot of determination, but I eventually let go of it and chose to not think about what others might be saying behind my back regarding the gun. It was not my fault.

My contribution to Keven’s death was so obvious, but for many people it's subtle - a nagging feeling that we could have done something differently, done more, done less. It's natural to go through that process. When I talk to another grieving parent who feels this way I ask, “did you love them unconditionally and did you do what you thought was best at the time?” If the answer is “yes”, then there is no reason for guilt. And the answer is almost always yes.

Grief is always shifting and evolving. It never goes away. But constant guilt doesn’t have to be part of it. Whether you’ve lost a child, a parent, a friend or a spouse - consider letting go of the guilt. Beating ourselves up for the list of “should of, could of” scenarios have no value, it only makes us feel worse, and we feel bad enough!

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing guilt due to the death of a loved one, feel it then release it. Give yourself one less emotional pain to bear.

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Thanks for your honesty Barbara. I know you loved Keven abundantly well.

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