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Guilt in Grief

Day 36: Guilt in Grief

There are many ways we humans complicate our grief experience, and one that I see often is in our tendency to have emotions about our emotions, with guilt being at the top of this list.

One reason guilt arises (almost universally) in the initial phase of grief (acute grief) is that during this time, our brain is trying to make sense of the loss. Our brain’s way of attempting to make sense of something that is nonsensical is by mulling over the details of how the event took place. My clients speak of these intrusive thoughts as loops, waking them at all hours of the night, distracting them throughout their day.

When our brains loops over and over again on any event, it tends to find holes in the narrative and due to the brain’s innate need to complete stories, it fills these holes in with could haves/should haves/if onlys—in other words, guilt. Simply put, in the early stages of grief, guilt, is a normal bi-product of our brain trying to make sense of a terrible thing we never imagined could happen.

Later in the grief process, when guilt continues to lurk, I get curious with my clients about what purpose the guilt might be serving, because believe emotions always come from somewhere. What I have noticed most often about someone’s lingering guilt is that it can serves as a façade for two major worries—a fear and worry that that the griever didn’t love the person enough and/or that the griever may be forgetting their person and what happened.

Guilt has a bad rap, when in fact, understanding what its purpose is/what is under it can be helpful so it doesn’t block the grieving process. I have yet to meet a griever who does not have some experience of guilt, even if they don’t name it as such.

Welcome to my #100dayproject. I am providing a daily offering on #grief, in honor of each person who has trusted me with their story and wisdom during their #griefjourney. I hope that others may benefit from simple and straightforward talk about a topic that can be difficult. Thanks for following and/or sharing.

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