Loss triggers the rollout of a thick fog of guilt. That fog sits heavily impairing visibility. Depending on the type of loss and the nature of the relationship, guilt varies. I know this because I grappled with guilt with each successive loss.
When I lost my father, I was forced to examine a relationship laden with turmoil and periods of estrangement. My emotions were heavily weighted by lost time and unspoken words. It’s a guilt those left behind by sudden death forever bear.
My mom’s death, was guilted by the feeling of not having done enough. I watched her slow neuromuscular deterioration until one day I had to let her go. Yes, I questioned, had I not lived three hours away, had she been closer to better medical facilities, had I taken her into my home, had a different medical approach been sought, would the outcome have been different? But the biggest guilt that emerged was had our relationship taken a different path, would I have been a better daughter?
And then there was Adam, my life partner. The guilt of his death was driven by the sheer events that some call PTSD. After he died, I shouldered the guilt of every action I took that morning. My guilt was on replay. What if I had found him sooner? Did I really clear the airway? Did I push hard enough during CPR? And why, why had I been so disturbed by his snoring that I selfishly, that one and only time, left our bedroom to get some sleep that night?
Lastly, after loss, survivors are left with the guilt of being happy, laughing, and enjoying the sweetness of life. How can we do this when the person we love is no longer here?
As time moves forward, those of us bearing the guilt manage to push the fog back and our visibility increases. With that, we gain both clarity and the ability to forgive. It’s not easy to learn to set aside the what ifs and to accept that under life’s circumstances we did the very best we could. We must learn to forgive ourselves. Additionally, we begin to forgive those that couldn’t bear the burden of our loss, couldn’t stand to witness our pain or simply missed who we used to be. Finding forgiveness is crucial to moving forward down the path of grief. We owe it to those we’ve loved and lost. We owe it to ourselves.
Kim Libertini is all too familiar with grief and the Co-Founder of Goodgrief App, the social network for loss available for less than a latte, for download in the App Store, Google Play and www.goodgriefapp.com. You can follow Goodgrief App on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.