Guilt ... If Only ... What if ...??

Old 02-09-2005, 10:09 AM
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Guilt ... If Only ... What if ...??

Guilt ... If Only ... What if ...??

When a loved one dies, feelings of guilt are normal. We may tend to blame ourselves for something we did or didn't do that may have contributed to the death or for things that we wish we did or didn't say or do. This is fairly common. Some bereaved, however, become tortured by their feelings of guilt and it colors their whole life. Guilt is a strong emotion which is often magnified because the bereaved are in an extremely vulnerable state. The guilt is often experienced when the bereaved try to answer the unanswerable: "Why did my loved one have to die?"

Most bereaved people feel some degree of guilt. None of us can live close to another person and love deeply without hurting that person. We all do and say things we later regret. We know these things hurt our loved one. when a loved one has died we are reminded of those hurts and failings, real or imagined, of words we regret saying, incidents we'd like to forget, actions we'd like to take back. We consider every possible action that we could have taken or not taken to prevent the death.

Guilt is usually not satisfied with explanations. Often we feel helpless with our guilt because there is little that we can do to correct the situation. A direct personal relationship is desired to take away the guilt but that is not possible because our loved one is dead. However, we may still ask forgiveness of our loved one who has died. We can take an empty chair and pretend our loved one is sitting there. Then we can have a one-way conversation expressing our regrets or guilt and asking for forgiveness. This is helpful for anything we want to say to our loved one. Even thought there is no response, the asking is important. Consider that in the same circumstances we would forgive them. When we feel guilty justifiably and we are unable to be forgiven directly by the deceased, we may find some relief by talking with a trusted friend about our feelings of guilt. It is important to find a friend who will listen and be accepting of our feelings, without being judgmental.

If we are truly sorry, we may at least feel God's forgiveness. In Living When a Loved One has Died, author Earl Grollman, quotes a wise clergyman who said, "I believe that God forgives you. The question is: Will you forgive yourself?" Someone else tells of a compassionate friend who said, "How many times have you asked God to forgive you?" "Hundreds and hundreds" was the reply. the friend said, "Too bad you wasted so much time. God forgave you the first time you asked." When you accept forgiveness (God's), you are choosing to forgive and love yourself and to let go of your guilt. Religion and psychology stress that forgiveness is important for inner health.

Feelings of guilt, which are common in all grief, are often of major concern among survivors whose loved ones have died by suicide. "Could I have prevented it?" "Is it my fault?" "How did I fail?" Most survivors tell that their grief was complicated by extreme feelings of guilt. For some the guilt never goes away. Either they let it ruin their lives or they allow it to diminish to the point where they can handle it.

It is important for you to accept your guilt, however illogical, to understand it and to deal with it. It's unhealthy and even damaging to stay with guilty feelings. It may take great effort but it is worth such effort because guilt that is unrecognized or unresolved for a long period may lead to psychosomatic illnesses and to years of unhappiness. Remember, we can't change the past. There is so much pain in grief that it is not helpful to continue to blame and accuse ourselves. Work on your guilt and hold on to Hope.

Suggestions for Handling Guilt

1. If you feel guilty, it is helpful to admit it to yourself. It is important to be truthful about why you feel guilty.

2. Ask yourself what things specifically are bothering you the most. Talk over you feelings of guilt with a trusted friend or professional who will listen, care and not judge. Guilt should not be glossed over nor pushed down. TALK about your guilt until YOU can let it go.

3. Remember that you are human. No one is perfect. There is so much that we tried to do. There are things we did not do. Accepting our imperfections aids us in working out our guilt. Realize that living is a balance of good and bad. Try not to blame yourself for things that you did not know you were mishandling.

4. Remember there is not always and answer to "why" and you do not have to find somebody (yourself) or something to blame. Ask yourself if you want to live with guilt for the rest of your life. Realize that sometimes you are powerless and that you can't control everything that happens.

5. Forgive yourself; ask for forgiveness of your loved one and of God. If your faith is shaken, try to put your religious beliefs back together and find comfort in your religion.

6. If appropriate, use the "empty chair" dialogue. This technique offers the opportunity to focus on your guilt, to admit it, to understand it and to deal with it.

7. If guilt is hindering your recovery, seek professional counseling. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to talk about your feelings of guilt with those who have been trained to help.

8. Try writings about your thoughts and feelings of guilt.

9. Become determined to live life to the best of your ability. when you are able, find some purpose or meaning in your life by helping others. Volunteer--in helping others you help yourself.

10. Remember, many bereaved people initially feel guilty but their guilt does lessen with effort on their part and with the perspective of time.
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Old 02-09-2005, 06:38 PM
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You must of been reading my mind. This post is what i needed. One of my family member just passed away and I am thinking way didn't go vist more or why did I call and talk to her more and things like that. Great post.
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Old 02-09-2005, 06:52 PM
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I can so relate to this thread.Most everyone in here has heard me talk about my fiance being killed in a car accident.Heres the part that bothered me for a long time.The day she died,I was working in our yard.She went to spend the afternoon with her mother.We decided we I would meet her at the 5:30 AA meeting at the Alano club.I went to the meeting and she never showed up.When the meeting was over,I walked out and was told she had been calling.She was at a bar drunk with her mother.I was pissed.She called 2 more times while I was standing there.I told the girl working the counter to tell her I didnt wanna talk to her after she had been drinking.She can spend the night with her mother and I will see her tommorow.Like an idiot,the thought that she had been drinking and maybe needed a ride never crossed my mind.I went home,and the next thing I knew a police officer was at my house with some bad news.I COULD HAVE GONE AND PICKED THEM UP!!!!!
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Old 02-13-2005, 10:31 AM
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Time2, I cannot imagine your pain. My AH died last week from liver failure, and I am so wracked with irrational guilt over "not doing things" to get him into recovery. As crazy as that is, my heart is locked on those thoughts. I have no words of comfort to offer, but I know that going to my al-anon meetings and working my program are my only hopes for regaining peace in my life. I can only speak for myself...this will be a long road. My heart goes out to you.
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Old 10-12-2006, 02:42 PM
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My guy was murdered by another woman and her son...
I left him shortly before because he would not get/stay clean.

Gracious, for like 5 years I felt guilty...

I finally realized...
I couldn't change him... that had to come from him.
I couldn't rescue him.... I had time and time again, to no avail.

I had to be, eventualy, thankful that myself nor my children were a part of his death.
He had a problem... that was a fact, he chose to continue his use. I miss him still, I hate what happened to him.

Do I blame myself still??
I couldn't choose his path nor walk it for him...
that was something he needed to do.

I pray that in the next round, should there be one for him, he'll/we'll find peace here on earth and that his lessons learned follow him.

Now, I realize that God is in control of things, not me.

I've learned from the past. Those lessons I learned from the past I keep with me... so as not to let my guy's death be in vain. I tell his kids the same thing.

Much peace to all of you who've lost a love one and feel you could have changed thier paths...

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Old 10-17-2006, 02:57 AM
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For me it's a matter of Guilt over loss,...Luckely I made the right move n surrendered to my addiction n gave mum my kids...!

Im wracked with Guilt,..n what if's,...I will never watch them grow up,...!
I will never be able to hold my daughter when she fall's over, or be there for Christmas or Birthdays,...!

I never chose drugs over my kids i chose there safety first, n my life in the gutter.,,.NOT for them,...I got them out of there,...and everyday i sruggle with the feelings of Why did i fail them so badly,...The ultimate faliure ehy....For a woman, is to fail your kids...and thats what i did,...!

Ive been free of hard drugs for a long time now,....but my mum dont see the change, she do'nt even know me....Her own daughter,...!

Please try not to judge me as it's not as black n withe as that,..n there are other details Why they had to leave,..!
I had no choice,...!I fought for 2 yrs n they threw the book at me...So all my attempts to save the situation were futile anyway,...They wanted me to fail n they got what they wanted did'nt they...!

Now Im alone and have to build a new life without them, when all i had was my son,..n now he's grown up i missed it,...'Forever Gutted' that im a failure of the highest order...Im my crappy mind anyway,...!
Sorry,.. for ranting abit...!
Thanks i think i needed that today,....

Time2,...Im am so sorry for your pain,...There is nothing i can say to ease your pain im sorry,...!
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Old 02-13-2007, 07:53 AM
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I came to this place today because of the grief and guilt I am feeling over letting my dad have the surgery for his cancer which he never was able to recover from. He died January 13, 2007. My god what the h*ll was I thinking. The man was 78 yrs. old. I could have had him for at least 6 to 8 months more and not in the terrible shape he was in. Yes I know, I didn't know. And I did follow the Doctor's advice. But I hate that man now. How could he tell us it was advisable?! Anyway I will heal (I hope). Time2, For give yourself!! You don't know that she would have even gone with you had you tried to drive her home. I truely believe, what happened was meant to be. It may have been god sending you a sign, not to give into you addictions. She continued to drink because of her need. God saw it right to stop her pain. As I believe he saw it time to stop my dad's pain.
Prayers for you and her........Puppy
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Old 02-14-2007, 07:55 PM
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Dear Fellow Grievers,

Yes guilt is a messy emotion. My husband died of an overdose about a month ago. And even though I KNOW that I did all that I could, I feel like I failed him. Like Time2, I cant help but think what if I got to him in time, took him away from that place, saved him. And then I remember all that I have learned, I did not cuase his addiction, I cannot control it, and cannot cure it. But damn, finding a way to manage the guilt is very difficult. Good luck and prayers to us all.
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:19 PM
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Hello everyone.. I am new on here.. I SO needed to hear about other peoples grief.. I have been sober for 11 and a half months and have came a long way.. I have some serious serious guilt issues.. See on the night of the last day of August in 2005 me and my best friend in the whole world for years (we were inseparable) decided to party and take some oxycontin and meth and xanax and smoke some weed and just have a great time.. What happened next haunts me still and I think always will.. My friend Mike in the middle of partying says man I feel like I am gonna puke so he walked to the bathroom and threw up.. He left the door open.. I walked to the bedroom and saw he was pale white and sweating.. Then he collapsed and went into convulsions.. He overdosed and died in my arms.. I done cpr but it was too late and didn't bring him back.. I have really bad night terrors because of this.. Mainly the fact that I gave him the pills and he plainly asked me if it would hurt him and I said "NO" cause I had mixed it a thousand times and he had too in the past.. But he is dead now and the guilt is unbelievable.. I can't sleep at night and I have terrible nightmares and just wish it would have been me.. someone please help me if you know how..
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:30 PM
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Read the first post above and if you don't find what you need there, the answer I will give you does the best job I know of at helping people find peace from the past.

If we ask of God for His forgiveness, He is righteous and just but full of grace at the same time.

Through Jesus, we are forgiven just by our asking.
I don't care what a person has done ...I know it will be forgiven.
I have lived it and God's word tells us it is truth.

Look up, talk with the Lord and feel His love and forgiveness fill you.
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:11 AM
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Thanks Best.. I have went to church and everything I can think of trying to get over it but nothing has helped thus far.. I have been having really really bad night terrors that scare the **** out of me.. It is the same reoccuring dream of my friend Mike standing at the foot of my bed just saying he is cold or mumbling something and he looks normal in a tuxedo but his eyes are just big black voids.. It is really freaky.. I have been having the same dream for about a year..
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Old 03-11-2008, 01:04 PM
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Confused with guilt??

It's crazy how many thoughts have gone through my head since I received the news at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 29, 2008 that my boyfriend decided to take his own life. This human being, whom I loved, had suffered with drug addiction, depression, PTSD, ADHA, etc. etc. and as much as everyone thought that one day he might die, most probable cause, DRUGS, he decided to take his life with a shotgun wound through his head??? I was flying out to spend the weekend with him to celebrate his birthday which I missed due to work. I can't seem to wrap my thoughts around so many things. Why was I with someone like this in the first place? Why did I think I could save him? We said "love conquers all". All his family seems to think that I offered him hope, love, a way of sober living, but I feel like I failed him, and all of his family's wishes. Why you may ask? Well, we fought. I would catch him in lies. I began to lose trust in everything he told me & I was MEAN. All I can think about is some of the mean words that came out of my mouth, but I was just hoping it would open his eyes. Was I a trigger? Was I just another stressor he had to worry about in his life amid his trying to stay clean? Was I just another piece of the puzzle that he had to worry about, that was cruel to him sometimes, that he had to make up more lies to hide what he was doing with his life? His Dr. stated that she was treating him as a suicidal person. I had no idea there was a gun in the house. Somehow he had a way of blowing off his addiction problems with a 1000 other stories to stray a persons mind from the real issues at hand. I am finding out more & more how much he lied to me. I don't know if it was that drugs had really taken over his mind? I am hurt, sad, ashamed for things I have said. He tied everyone's hands. I wasn't allowed to talk to his friends, family, Dr., etc., and he told everyone else the same thing. What really sucks though is that he tried with what I believed all his heart to make me feel loved. He saved whatever $'s he could to pay for me & show me a good time when I would visit him. I am haunted though thinking of the last time I visited him & he asked "why was I so mean? Was I just ******* with him"
We have been together since 2005, long distance for about 18 months, with visits every month. I told him I would not move out there until he had a place, job, something to do with himself everyday. He just kept making the wrong decisions. He obviously was not mentally able to handle the kind of relationship I thought?? I AM SO MAD AT MYSELF. God, please know that I loved him.
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Old 03-11-2008, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by DeathnAddiction View Post
Why did I think I could save him?
Because that is what people try to do that have love in their heart for others.
As I read what you posted, I see that you brought a kindness and love into his life that he would never have known. You gave him so much.
We can't stop addictions and we can't stop another from taking their own life.
I would have... I should have, and I could have... even if we did all the things we can think of fater the fact... we still can't stop another from making their own choices in life
You didn't cause it.
You couldn't cure it.
and by accepting those facts of truth, you will see that none of it is your fault.
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Old 07-09-2008, 11:48 PM
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Sorry---LIFE wasted.

I'm new here---first SA site I have ever posted to. Four days sober, hands still tremoring. Another bottom. My LIFE has fairly completely wasted on chasing alcohol. I obsess about my failings 24/7 (literally since I haven't slept for over 4 days).............. hope to get to know y'all. Don't know what else to say. Everything seems hopelessly bleak---and has for 18 solid months. And many years before that.
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Old 07-10-2008, 02:27 AM
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Welcome to SR another bottom!
Hang in there, four days is GREAT!!!
Are you getting any support to help you along with this?
Have you thought about AA?
Have you been to a doctor yet? I know alcohol detox
can be dangerous..

We're glad to have you here,
keep posting, everyone will help you get through it
as much as they can.


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Old 07-10-2008, 04:12 AM
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Hi anotherbottom,

I'm glad you found us. I know you're a little messed up right now, but help is available, and there is hope. Take some time to cruise the boards here, in particular Newcomers and Alcoholism. There are many stories of hope and inspiration. We understand where you are coming from and you are not alone. Stick around, and please keep posting.

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Old 07-10-2008, 05:14 AM
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welcome to S.R. 4 days is great. everyday is a miracle. keep coming back around. there is alot of support here. others have done it & so can you.prayers,
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Old 07-10-2008, 05:44 AM
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Welcome to SR! Glad that you found us!
Please check out the other forums and stickies at the top of the
forum-there is so much support here!

Many prayers to you! 4 days is great and there are a lot here
that have been where you are so hold that head up high and know
that you have begun a journey that you are not alone on!
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Old 07-10-2008, 08:00 AM
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I'm so glad you decided to post here at SR. Congratulations for the four days. When I'm tired and not feeling well, it's hard to do much but I try and remember that I can do anything for just one day. In some situations I have shortened the time frame, but it does help put things in a different perspective.
Please keep posting. There is always hope.

You can find some more support here:
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Old 08-05-2009, 09:03 PM
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Guilt is such a difficult emotion to deal with. There are so many what if's, if only's and why couldn't I's. Just a couple of days before my husband died (5 months this saturday) my pain specialist started me on methodone, and later from the coroner I learned that he had been sneaking them from me...he was having a lot of problems with prescription addiction. I feel guilty for not hiding them when I first got them. But that's not my biggest guilt.

I remember waking late morning and taking my morning meds, then I fell back to sleep. At some point he had stumbled from the office to across the hall and into our bedroom. Because of my meds I didn't hear anything. I woke up late afternoon and found him dead at the foot of our bed. From where he was I know he was trying to get to me to help him. If I would have heard him I may have been able to help him or get him help in time, or I could have at least been with him when he took his last breath. He was so close to me, but it could have been a million miles away...I wish I would have heard him.

It's something that I'm still working on. I write him letters, I go to his grave and talk to him. It does help, but I know it's still a long road ahead.
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