There is “normal” guilt, then there is “unhealthy” self-blaming. The two are very different.
It is “normal” to feel remorse over something you neglected to do for your loved one when they were alive. Or wishing you could take back some careless word you said. There is not a single person who isn’t in this same boat. Unfortunately we are imperfect human beings. We must admit and confess this and then just as God forgives us we must forgive ourselves.
“Unhealthy” self-blame is when you start beating yourself up out of proportion to what happened. An example might be if you had stayed at the dying person’s bedside for days and the doctor insists you go home to get rest. In that time your loved one dies. If you blame yourself excessively for not being there and do so for a long drawn out time, it becomes unhealthy.
If you can’t work through this stage on your own, this might be the time to seek help. There are numerous resources we can utilize. Obviously we should talk to friends and family, however there are times we need someone with more training. Talk to your pastor or the hospital chaplain. Your doctor, or perhaps the funeral director could refer you to grief or bereavement counselors in your area.
We also might need to talk with a counselor if we are struggling through complicated remorse or grief. When we are estranged from the person at the time of death we may need extra help to sort through all of the guilt and emotions we are experiencing.
Needing someone to help us work through everything is not a sign of weakness, but wisdom!
My dad, a pastor, - who recently died of Alzheimer’s (another grief story) – always showed us by example that for any part of life, to resource when we did not have enough experience to work through something on our own.
He was a humble man with great wisdom who wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
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