From Grief to Growth

8 - Guilt, Shame and Regret Are Killing Me

Today’s podcast is titled Guilt, Shame and Regret are Killing Me.  We will explore some of the common thoughts associated with these emotions, the consequences of these negative thoughts, and the impact they can have on our lives.  I will discuss concepts of self-compassion and self-forgiveness as methods to combat feelings of guilt, regret or self-blame related to the sudden death of your loved one.

 

Feelings of regret, guilt, and self-blame.

You may find yourself caught up in the emotions of guilt, regret, or self-blame.  Guilt about things you did, did not do, or say, regrets about actions, lack of actions, or blame about behaviors that did or did not occur.  You may have thoughts about what you could have done to prevent the death from happening.  It is important that you find ways to process and work through these feelings in a healthy manner.

 

Consequences of living in guilt, self-blame, or regret.

Many grievers devote significant amounts of time living in their guilt and blame, or regretting actions that they did not take.  Spending too much time in these negative emotions can complicate your grieving process and increases your risk for depression.  Living in regret, guilt and blame is how some people choose to stay connected to a loved one, but this is not a healthy way for connection.  

 

Concepts of self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

The key to overcoming these difficult emotions lies within self-compassion and self-forgiveness. 

 

Self-compassion entails being kind to ourselves. It involves being understanding to ourselves when we feel insecure and when we are in pain.

 

According to Dr. Kristen Neff, an expert on self-compassion (www.selfcompassion.org), there are 3 important parts to self-compassion:

 

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Self-kindness
  3. Common humanity

 

Self-forgiveness means that you allow yourself to be free from feelings or emotions related to what you feel went wrong.

 

Two important factors that relate to both self-compassion and self-forgiveness:

 

  1. It is easier for us to have compassion or to forgive others than it is for us to have these feelings towards ourselves, and

 

  1. Self-compassion and self-forgiveness take work. These skills are not developed overnight, but instead are shifts in thinking that occur over time, little by little.

 

The following is an exercise to help you engage in self-forgiveness and self-compassion:

 

  • Identify the specific actions, feelings, or behaviors where you are feeling a strong sense of regret or guilt. Make a list and write everything down. Ask yourself “why am I feeling guilty?”, or “why am I blaming myself?”.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. If you are comfortable, share your list with someone so that they can validate your feelings.
  • Look at your intentions. This step is vital, especially if you are blaming yourself. Ask yourself, “was my intent to cause harm?”  See if you can start to find some compassion, or if you can forgive yourself when you start to examine your overall intent. 
  • Have a conversation with your loved one in your head. What would they say about the situation at hand?  What perspective would they bring to the table?  If you shared your feelings of regret, blame or guilt, how would they respond?
  • Ask yourself what forgiveness would look like.
  • Ask yourself what the consequences are of not forgiving yourself.

 

It is going to take time to find compassion and forgiveness for yourself but it’s going to be worth it. 

 

Our next podcast will be available on Wednesday, August 31, and will be titled But I Don’t Want To Accept It.   Be sure to subscribe to my podcast so that you never miss an episode.  Don’t forget to leave a review and share this with someone you know who is living with a sudden and unexpected loss.

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