Managing Guilt

When dealing with the loss of a loved one, memories have a strong effect on the grieving process. One of the most important memories is often the last shared interaction. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this interaction to leave some of those grieving with feelings of guilt. If the last interaction ended in an argument, for example, it can make dealing with the loss even more challenging.  However, there are steps one can take to hopefully learn from this negative emotion.

1) Reflect on the Argument

While thinking about the argument may initially increase feelings of guilt, it can lead to positive results. For example, reflecting can help learning to handle similar problems in the future. Take a step back and try to think about the particular argument.

Did you take time to think about what you were going to say before speaking? Often during arguments people feel as though they need to respond quickly. Rather, focus on learning to listen to what the person has to say and reflecting before responding.  While the other person may become accusatory or angry, try to remain calm and take a step back. Keep your focus on trying to solve the disagreement as peacefully as possible. Think about how to empathize and describe your feelings without using an accusatory tone or negative language.

2) Forgive Them and Yourself

What could have been said differently? As mentioned above, during arguments people feel they need to respond quickly. In the heat of the moment, people often say things they don’t mean or focus on phrasing. Often it is easier to think about phrasing or resolutions after the argument is over.

During reflection, you may realize although you care about the person, you said something hurtful towards them. Rather than letting guilt take control, use this realization in a positive way. Take this moment to understand your loved one may have done the same. Forgive both them and yourself for not showing the usual care toward each other’s feelings.

3) Think about the Positive Times

It is expected for people who are around each other frequently to occasionally  disagree.  If the last interaction you had with your loved one was negative, it likely will stand out in your memory.  However, the negative interaction does not mean that the two of you did not care about each other. In fact, odds are the two of you shared a lot more good times than bad. Take time and think about the times you shared in which you both proved you cared about each other. These times mean more about your relationship than the negative last interaction.