by Kim Vargas, LCSW
Name the feeling. Do not allow yourself to just call it guilt without really digging deep to determine whether you believe you actually have something legitimate that you feel you did wrong. Talk to someone you trust about these feelings.
Acknowledge cumulative grief if applicable. Ask yourself whether some of the grief/guilt might be related to a previous loss. If so, be mindful of the cumulative effect of the grief. Naming and assigning the grief to its separate roots can be helpful.
Address any legitimate guilt. If you do determine that you have done something wrong, try to find ways to make amends or plan to behave differently in the future. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past, but you can take control of the future.
Accept the sadness. Once you have acknowledged grief as the primary emotion, allow yourself to feel the sadness. Sometimes it is better to sit in the pain than to try to banish it without examination. It can be especially helpful to process these feelings with a trusted individual.
Practice self care and self compassion. Grief takes a tremendous toll on people. In order to keep functioning, it is vital to take care of yourself. In addition, having compassion for oneself makes the process easier. There may be times when the grief is crushing, and other times when it feels more manageable. Giving yourself grace during the hardest times will encourage healing.
Empower yourself. Given that part of the guilt may be a dysfunctional way to feel more in control, it is useful to find healthy ways to empower yourself. This may or may not be related to the grief itself. In some cases, finding empowerment in any realm of one’s life can be incredibly beneficial. This may mean a major life shift, but more often takes the form of something in the moment. Accomplishing a task, cleaning your house, or going out for a run are small examples that may have a large impact.