Guilt in grief

One theme or discussion that comes up when talking about grief is the concept of time – what it means to people and how we experience it. Some people share with us that time seems to be flying by making them feel like their loved one is further away, whereas others may feel like life is at a standstill.

This indicates that the concept of time gets impacted on by grief because, contrary to the common message we receive that ‘time is a healer’, the pain and struggle of grief can feel like an on-going endurance.

People may also experience some of their emotions fluctuating over time or popping up when they least expect it, for example, guilt. Guilt is not something everybody experiences when they are grieving, but some people resonate with feelings of guilt appearing at times when they had done something enjoyable for themselves or felt relief for not having to care for someone anymore. That type of guilt can lead people to think they are a bad person or shouldn’t be doing things they enjoy, such as going on holiday or going to a party, etc. Knowing that these types of feelings are normal reactions when grieving can help lessen any judgment or hard feelings you may be harbouring.

We are frequently hard on ourselves for not “doing better”, we easily feel guilt over things that we say or do, and we often find ourselves looking out for others and putting their needs above ours. Maybe now it is time to try putting feelings of guilt aside and take care of you? We know that putting ourselves first during grief is easier said than done.

Linked to feelings of guilt and other emotions, it can be tricky to find a helpful balance between managing how other people think we are coping and “being real”. Whether this is because we want to protect others from our pain, because we are worried they will not understand, or something else – this may be an example of looking out for others and not putting ourselves first. It is ok to do something for you.

Maybe it is worth scheduling in time for you even if guilt or sadness does arise, because for all you know the activity may bring even a small level of joy or relaxation. Can you schedule something for you today?

Best wishes,
Dr Francine Bear
TLF Team