“I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you”
This thought will bring me to tears, anywhere, anytime, every time. When I’m trying to get to sleep, when I’m trying to work, just when I’m trying to have a coffee with someone.
I have a resounding amount of guilt about the fact I couldn’t save him, like I should have had the knowledge to know what to do when someone has had a stroke, I should have been a psychic.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you”
There was no way I could have known, there was nothing I could have done but still the guilt stays.
It’s now been 10 months since the death of Riley and I have experienced so many types of guilt along the way. It starts off with as soon as they die and it doesn’t stop.
- The guilt of not being able to help.
- The why wasn’t it me guilt. When you sit there alone at night, staring into space wondering why you didn’t die but they did.
- The guilt after you have a terrible thought about ending your own life.
- The guilt of catching yourself thinking that you wish you didn’t have to deal with this. While you are planning the funeral or meeting with a bunch of people about the estate.
- The guilt of wishing you had never met them. “If I had never met him, this would have never happened.”
- The guilt that you didn’t spend enough time with them. Every time he went out in the cold to take photos, day trips out and about. I wish I had gone on all of them.
- The guilt of the dumb arguments you had. “WHY COULDN’T YOU HAVE JUST PUT THE TOILET SEAT DOWN ONCE YOU WERE DONE” doesn’t seem so important now, does it?
- The guilt of cutting ties with people they loved but you didn’t. It broke my heart when I vow never to speak to his mother ever again because I know he loved her, but I can’t deal with that much poison in my life right now (or ever again).
- The guilt of finding someone new.
- The guilt of sharing the important moments in your life with someone new.
- The guilt of catching yourself being happy.
- The guilt of wishing they were still alive even though you have found someone new.
The list goes on. But I think you get the idea. I’ll briefly touch a couple of them that I found weird and hard to process and run through some things that might help with your guilt.
Firstly, you should never be guilty that you are happy, I know that’s easier said than done and it will get to you every now and again. You might catch yourself laughing with your friends or see your new man conversing with your cat and you will suddenly feel like the worst person in the world but trust me, you’re not. You deserve happiness after what will hopefully be the worst thing to ever happen to you.
Secondly, wishing they were alive even though you have found someone new. This one was particularly odd for me. I was attempting to sleep a little while back and I suddenly burst into tears because I really wanted Riley back. So he could hug me and tell me everything is going to be okay. And then I remember that I had someone new and a huge sense of guilt just washed over me. What was I doing wishing Riley was back when I have a new boyfriend? This happens a lot when people start dating again after the death of their partner. It’s so ingrained that this was a person that comforted us and you wish they could do that again even though you have a perfectly good comforter sleeping beside you.
Why do we experience guilt while grieving?
Because we feel like we did something wrong, but just because you feel guilty doesn’t mean you are. We sit there thinking about how we could have helped, what we should have done, and sometimes regretting the things we did. And while a lot of the time we know this grief is irrational this still takes a massive toll on our lives.
Because we want order. Without someone/something to blame, we suddenly realise that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the universe. If we think about all the things we could have done to change the outcome, it can provide comfort that there is a rational order to things, and we have some control. As long as we have the guilt, we have hope that we could have controlled the outcome. A recognition of control, however small or even incorrect, is often more comforting than considering the notion that we have no control.
Because we did do something wrong. When we are grieving, we lose some control over our lives. We do sometimes make mistakes, and whether they have serious consequences or not we will still feel guilty about it. Sleeping with someone you shouldn’t (and normally wouldn’t), saying hurtful things, not doing things we should, etc.
Guilt is usually not satisfied with logical reasons, often the logical explanations make us feel even worse, we feel helpless because there is little we can do to make the guilt go away.
But some helpful hinters?
Acknowledge that guilt is normal, and don’t let others tell you how to grieve. Admit your guilt, but consider whether it is rational or not. If it isn’t, admit it. You have to acknowledge it’s there. It’s always the first step.
Talk it over with others, friends, family, a random on the internet. Ask yourself what things are bothering you at the moment. If you don’t feel like talking, write it down, or even have a conversation with your loved one. Find something that belonged to them, and talk to it. It’s up to you really. I talked to his ashes I have in a necklace. If guilt continues to get to you, seek professional counselling. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings of guilt with those who have been trained to help.
Do something with your guilt. Help others, tell them what you have learned, and help them avoid mistakes, raising awareness on what people go through, or simply encouraging others to talk.
Consider what your loved one would tell you. You will always be harsher on yourself then they would be on you? Imagine telling them how you are feeling. Tell them anything you want, and imagine what your loved one would say back.
Forgive yourself. That doesn’t mean condoning or excusing what has happened, or what you did. Forgiveness can mean accepting that we may have done something we regret, but finding new attitudes and perspectives toward ourselves in relation to that action. It doesn’t mean we forget, but means we find a way to move forward.
Remember, we can’t change the past. There is so much pain in grief that it is not helpful to continue to blame and accuse ourselves. Try and work through your guilt and hold onto the Hope. Many people initially feel guilty, but their guilt does lessen with effort and time.
Riley doing what he loved.
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