No matter from where or when it comes, guilt can be very difficult to deal with and very hard to get rid of.
When guilt comes after a death, the long-term consequences can hound and haunt us forever.
Feeling guilty, like all other emotions doesn’t have to add up or make sense. Where guilt is concerned 2 plus 2 is often anything but 4.
Janet remembers feeling guilty for not keeping her son home from school the day of the bus accident, even though there was no reason for Daniel to stay home and no way to predict the accident.
Donald feels guilty for not loving his wife Elaine more, for not spending more time with her when she was well and for not being a more caring, loving husband. I knew Donald to be a very loving, caring and attentive man, yet still he was overcome with guilt.
After my father died almost three years ago, I was consumed with guilt for not being more present and active in his life. I was also horribly guilty for not doing more for him when he was in the hospital at the end of his life.
Guilt is an emotion that hangs on for a long time and really needs us to pay attention to its presence.
We feel guilt because we need to reflect and remember.
We feel guilt because we are sure that we fall short.
We feel guilt to remind us that there are lessons to be learned.
And we feel guilt because of our programing.
Your programing is something that is cultural and takes place within your home and your community. Certainly some groups are fond of guilt. If you happen to come from a culture where guilt is fostered, you may have some hard work to do to unhook you from years of training.
If guilt arises because we have lessons to learn and have a need to reflect on our attitudes and behavior then guilt has a purpose.
If by way of example you have been mean or thoughtless to another person, guilt is a tool that may have you reconsidering who you are and how you act.
In my case, I know that if I had the chance to live my time with my dad differently, I would try to make some changes.
I would have tried to do things differently with him when he was well and I would certainly have responded to his illness in ways other than what I did.
In the end my guilt around my father’s life and death helped me to reflect, learn and grow. I see things now that I did not see before and I have learned a great deal about how I can respond to others in new ways.
Initially the day-to-day pain that I carried for falling short in my relationship with my dad was too much to bear. I would, each time guilt showed its ugly face, push it away. I simply couldn’t manage the hurt that my guilty feeling brought with them.
After a while I began to express my feelings to those close to me. I would tell them how I felt and what I wish I had done differently.
After being open to my feelings and learning to express myself over and over again, the guilty feelings became manageable. I began to learn perspective.
Today I still have regrets and know that I have learned a lot, but the enormous guilt and its heavy load of pain has mostly passed.
If you feel guilty, find someone to tell how you feel and why. In time and with hard work you will learn to deal with and manage your guilt.
You are not responsible for the ebb and flow of life. You are only responsible for you, your attitude and activity.
Let your guilt tell you where you can grow and develop. Try and find a way with help and kindness to let the rest go.