September 12, 2012

Self-Forgiveness: How Do We Learn to Forgive Ourselves After the Death of Loved One?

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Marina Mails, NCC, LPC
HPCG Bereavement Counselor

Many grieving people carry guilt long after they lose their loved one. It seems that even the most caring, loving folks wind up feeling the most guilt. Because these loving people are accustomed to being there for the ones they love and care for, they can be the first to find fault with them after a loss.

Some people feel guilty for something they have said or left unsaid. Others wish they could have done more to alleviate the discomfort or intervene with an illness. Whatever the source of guilt, it is often difficult to make amends when our loved one is no longer here to forgive us.

If you are struggling with guilt, it may take some time to work toward self-forgiveness. It may help to write a letter to your loved one. You may try writing a list of the things that you did “right” in order to shift your focus and remind yourself of all that you have given.

Seeking spiritual guidance from a trusted clergy person can be helpful. Or, if you feel you would benefit from talking with a bereavement counselor, you can contact HPCG’s Counseling and Education Center at 336.621.5565. Talking with a caring, objective person can be a helpful way to process guilt.

As you work through the pangs of guilt that may come with grief, try to keep a balanced perspective. Remember your good deeds and that you are human. Remind yourself of your good intentions and take care of yourself. Forgiveness will come.