Sometimes when death does come knocking we run up against a ‘guilt gate’ through which it is difficult to gain access. This guilt gate is self-created; a direct result of how we have treated our dying or deceased loved one over the years. It blocks our ability to grieve in healthy ways. Good news is there is a key to open this self-constructed ‘guilt gate’.
You see guilt is something we heap on ourselves; a feeling that significantly limits our ability to grieve. Guilt is a result of two issues; things we have done to a loved one that we feel we should not have done; and things we failed to do for a loved one that we think we should have done. The double-edged sword works against our natural human grief response.
So what to do?
In short, ‘fess up – tell the truth regarding the done or not done things and your late loved one. Here is a structure you can use on your own. Once completed though, it is important to share it with a person you can trust who will receive your confession without judgment.
Get a piece of paper out and write on the top of it the loved one you are dealing with. On one side of the page write the instruction;
A) Tell me something you have done to ______________________ that in your estimation you think you should not have done.
On the reverse side of the paper write this instruction;
B) Tell me something you failed to do for _____________________ that in your opinion you think you should have done.
Take your time in a quiet and private spot; answer the first instruction with one thing. Then flip the page over and respond to the second instruction with one answer. Go back and forth in this way until you have run out of responses. Set the paper aside in a safe place for a day and then come back to it for one last review. Notice if you have any unfinished regrets and complete the exercise as outlined above. If there are no new guilty things folder the sheet of page up and place it in an envelop.
Make a date with a dear friend asking them if they would mind listening to a few things you need to clear up regarding a loved one you have some unresolved issues around.
When together with your friend explain the exercise you completed, why you have done so and then simply read the notes out loud to them. I would recommend once you have shared your regrets that you burn the letter and let it go as fully as you can both in paper form and as importantly emotionally.
Once you have released the guilt you have felt AND a confidant has received your confessions, you will notice the grief gates open. You now feel free enough to truly let go and grieve.
Remember guilt then grief – first things first!