The Answer to Guilt…
We often get mixed up about this word guilt. Many people consider guilt in a near mythological positive light; guilt is the feeling that we could have been better. Mother Teresa, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, indeed Jesus himself experienced this feeling. To own a consciousness is to know you could have done better, that you are called upon to do better, be better.
This is not the guilt that rides on the waves of grief’s emotions.
The guilt that rides the waves of our grief is a pernicious distortion of our emotions. It is the most common and malignant feeling that follows grief. It is always a wrong turn.
The guilt that arrives with the passing of a loved one often becomes a larger psychic burden than our loss. Parents who have lost a beloved child are particularly susceptible to it, and even more so for those of us who have lost our loved one to suicide or violence.
In the throes of our grief, we begin playing the “if only” game. We review our loved ones’ life, mining it for incidents where if only we had done this or not done that, there would have been a different outcome. Our loved one would still be alive. If only I had steered him to get help sooner, he might still be here; if only I had not let her drive that night, she might still be alive…
Here we are attempting to rewrite history; we desperately seek another, different outcome, one where our loved one is still alive. Yet we lose this game every time we play it. There is no different ending. These real or imagined things that triggered your guilt do not matter now. There is no alternative ending; your guilt does not change anything.
Guilt serves only to hurt you.
Read that sentence again, and consider:
Even if you do have some culpability in a loved one’s passing, and these feelings are always grotesque exaggerations colored by fear, you are already paying the highest price possible. You do not need to hurt yourself more.
How do you transcend guilt? How do you stop this feeling?
By letting it go. Can it be that simple? Yes.
Again, imagine your guilt as smoke being carried away by a good strong wind. Refuse, absolutely, to play the “if only” game. You might always wish you were dealt a different card, but you weren’t. The past cannot be rewritten.
Experience the unalterable truth of these words: Your loved one is gone.
Because, you see, once you let go of guilt, you find acceptance. This acceptance is the biggest stepping stone in grief’s long passage. Once you find acceptance, you will be in the light, holding the only thing that matters.
You are left with their love.