Everybody Has a “What if”

BY: Diane Snyder Cowan

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss
ThinkstockPhotos-490847418-(1).jpgEveryone has a “what if.”  What if I drove instead of him?  What if  I didn’t put her in the nursing home? What if we went with the feeding tube? What if I told her how much I loved and needed her? What if?  What then?

Guilt. It is a feeling that many people experience after the death of a loved one. Not only are there what ifs, but there are also should haves, could haves, would haves and if onlys. People generally make the best decision they can with the information that they have. Hindsight is 20/20 and can be a dangerous thing. People second-guess themselves and experience pangs of guilt.

The bottom line is that it is okay to experience feelings of guilt. Feelings are not right or wrong, good or bad. Guilt may or may not be illogical. The important thing is to understand it and cope with it. If guilt is unrecognized or unattended to, it can cause unhappiness and poor health. It can consume you. Engaging with feelings of guilt in a healthy way can be transformative in the grief process.
  1. Accept your feelings of guilt.
  2. Remember that you are human and accept your imperfections.
  3. Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or health care professional.
  4. Try journaling your thoughts and feelings.
  5. Consider forgiveness – of yourself, of others, of things beyond your control.
  6. Be kind to yourself.
Remember that you are not the person you were before the death. If you are experiencing rational feelings of grief, learn from them. Change from them.  If there is no reason behind the guilt and you still feel guilty, accept the feelings. Accept your limitations. And when you are ready, let go of the guilt and allow the loving memories of the deceased remain forever in your heart.

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