Grappling with Owned Guilt


Okay, so yesterday I talked about the more universal guilt we ‘borrow’.  This is the guilt we bereaved parents tend to adopt simply because our child died and we could’ve, should’ve been able to do something to stop it.

Today I’m talking about the guilt we ‘own’.  This is the guilt you carry for specific things.  The time you snapped at your child and made them cry, the missed opportunities to spend more quality time with them, the specific time you forgot to give them medication, the time you said no when you wish you’d said yes, the list goes on and on and on….

First, give yourself a break.  EVERY parent makes mistakes, learns as they go along, has regrets etc.  No.Parent.Is.Perfect. nor does any person parent perfectly.  That’s life, give up trying to be perfect, you’ll just get frustrated.

Second, stop trying to ignore the guilty feelings, or talk yourself out of them, or rationalize them knowing the above.  Just like all the other shitty, uncomfortable feelings that come with grief in order to actually be free from guilt, you have to tackle it head on with the guilt you feel surrounding your deceased child.

Below are a few ways you can do that:

Write a list of every single thing you feel guilty about, no matter how small. When you’re done review the list.  Are there things you can genuinely forgive yourself for? If so do it, verbally say it.  Now for the things you can’t…

  • Write a letter to your child listing the things your can’t forgive yourself for. If you want to explain yourself go for it, if it’s not necessary don’t.  Apologize and ask for forgiveness for each of the specific things. Finish the letter with words of love and whatever else you want to include.
  • Have a conversation with your child doing the same as above. Stop and listen, you may just hear from your child.
  • If you’ve already apologized and asked for forgiveness from your child and yourself, but still can’t seem to shake the guilt, examine your present life.  Did you ask for forgiveness for something you still do? For example, did you ask for forgiveness for not being more present with your deceased child and yet you still don’t show up for your living children? Well, learn the lesson!!! Show up and I bet once you make that shift your subconscious will allow you to let go of the guilt.
  • When a guilty thought pops up, listen to it and question it.  Why am I feeling guilty about this? What is the pay off for me to continue to carry this guilt? Have I asked for forgiveness (both from myself and my child)? Is this something that was really under my control or am I feeling guilty as a way of feeling in control? What am I afraid of if I let go of the guilt?

Hope these suggestions help. Guilt serves a purpose, when it changes behaviors that can be changed.  Then let it go and be free 🙂


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