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Article of the Month

Handling Sense of Guilt

Forward by Tamara Deuel
"We are given grief and sadness but at the same time we are given love and beauty. And for our continuation we should not hold on to the pain, at least not with all of our power, but believe and live the life that is given to us with love and beauty and start to climb out of the darkness."

Guilt is a normal experience when someone close passes away.

We go through a series of stages during which we tend to blame ourselves, blame others, blame third parties, or the institutions which cared for the individual. But, foremost is the sense of personal guilt.

You feel that you did not do what you should or could have done. You feel that there were things which were left unsaid. You feel that if only you had done or said something, the person might be alive today. Feelings that you were not there or if you were, that you did not show or tell the person that you loved them. Or, you did not touch them. And there is usually the feeling that you did not heal old wounds or misunderstandings between the two of you whether or not there was the opportunity to do so.

This guilt can manifest itself in a number of way.
Some of these ways include:
Thinking of ending your own life
Consciously or subconsciously hurting yourself or taking unnecessary risks
Giving in to the grief you feel for the loss but particularly for what you perceive as your part in that loss
Attempts to blame others in the family or friends for what they did or did not do which may have caused the situation to gravitate toward the tragic end.
Placing the blame on medical or other personnel (third parties) who were involved with the individual.

We often carry an enormous burden of guilt with us and the question is how do we handle it. How can we continue when the other is not continuing, when there is no opportunity to say we are sorry, to set things straight, to do those things which in retrospect might have made a difference. But, one of the things that I have learned in going through this tragedy, is that these things are in fact possible, we can correct these things - at least within ourselves.

There are several stages to this and I will set them forth here. They may not occur in the order in which I present them. But they can occur and can help in the healing process.

First, you can ask the other person for forgiveness, to tell them that you are sorry for what you did or did not do. This may seem impossible or even foolish to do, but believe me, it is possible and in doing so, a sense of peace or understanding is generated which can never be achieved in any other way.

Secondly, tell them how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Do not hold it back but say and express what is in your heart. Whether or not you feel that the other is able to hear, there is the sense that some sort of communication has taken place. And with this you feel some sense of peace, of having achieved something which may not have been possible before. And, along with this, a new understanding within yourself of what the other meant to you.

Then there is the third thing which you must do for yourself or you will bear the scars for a very long time. That is the process of forgiving yourself. You may feel that you do not deserve it, that any attempt at self forgiveness is futile or may not be deserved. But I know that this is a healing process which allows the individual to come to a fuller understanding of the true circumstances as they occurred. It is as if saying, "No matter what I did or did not do, I forgive myself". This causes a release of emotions, and a renewal of the self forward onto a path leading away from self blame, and despair.

The fourth thing which must be done is the forgiveness of others who were or were not involved in what happened. Even those who you feel may have been directly responsible for what happened. This not only releases them, but most importantly, it releases you from a never ending cycle of blame whether or not justified. It releases the self to the extent that you release others. And this must be something which you do with all of your heart. They should not be just words, although this is the way in which it most likely starts out. "I forgive _____ and ______for what they did." "Sure I do." "No, I really forgive them." "Yeh, Yeh." "I forgive them completely for whatever I think they might have done or did not do, I forgive." Try it and continue until you believe it. You will know when in fact the forgiveness actually takes place. Do not stop until it does. This may take a number of sessions but do not walk away from this without doing it.

Next, you must forgive the person who died. They left you. They did not say or do things which you needed. They may actually have wanted to hurt you by what they did. But, you must forgive them whatever the reason, and for whatever happened. They need to be forgiven. They need to be released from within your heart of any guilt or wrongdoing by your forgiveness.

Next, and this is perhaps the most important part, within yourself and deep from your heart, you must give the person who has left, your wishes for a safe journey in continuance. You may feel that there is no afterlife, that there is nothing, but it is very important that you complete this step.

And finally, do the following with all of your heart. Let them go. Here, you are not only releasing them from you but you are releasing yourself. So that if there is continuance of any kind, and even if there is not, you are letting them go with love and all of the feelings which you have for them - you are giving them the freedom to continue, unencumbered by what may have been, unencumbered with the past, the emotions, the obligations. Say the simple words "______, I release you totally."

If you have NOT done all of these things with all of your heart, there will be no tears. But if you have...

May God bless you.

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