Living With Grief, Guilt and Regret
Rather than addressing how you feel, you might think you need to be strong by numbing your emotions
Our relationships with loved ones can be the source of great joy and fulfillment - but will also be the reason for emotional turmoil when things go wrong.
Usually, we can offer an apology or extend forgiveness to restore the relationship, which will inevitably make your bond stronger.
However, what if as a result of a bereavement you are unable to reconcile a misunderstanding, or undo something you did or didn’t do?
The finality of the relationship may make even the smallest of “I wish I had said/hadn’t said” regrets to result in unresolved grief. After all, how can you reconcile with someone who is no longer with you?
You may not feel your unresolved grief every minute of every day. Instead, it will be triggered by a special occasion or memory, keeping you emotionally stuck on a hamster wheel of guilt and regret.
Rather than addressing how you feel, you might think you need to be strong by numbing your emotions, therefore avoiding the inevitable pain. However, taking this approach has the following consequences:
Your emotional needs do not go away. Instead, like a pressure cooker they will bubble-up from time to time in the form of unpredictable, and often unwanted behaviour.
You cannot deny one emotion without blocking all emotions. Numbing how we feel to prevent emotional pain will mean we’re less able to feel the full range of human emotions, including experiencing joy at happy occasions.
If any of this resonates with you, understand you are having a normal and natural reaction to grief - and that you don’t need to ‘stay strong’.
There is hope, you don’t have to remain stuck. The adage, ‘time heals’ is not altogether true, it’s what you do with your time that will bring about the change you want.
Books might help, support groups will definitely make a positive difference. However, what you need to change to free yourself of your guilt and regret will run deeper. To successfully address this, you will need a structured programme of self discovery and emotional honesty - which includes:
Acknowledgement - recognising the behaviours that keep you stuck.
Awareness - why you numb your feelings, and what to do about it.
Action - a personalised action plan to address your emotional needs.
If you belong to a bereavement support group but still feel you are beset with the guilt and regrets of unresolved grief, please get in touch and we’ll match you to one of our Grief Specialists who can start giving you the help you need.
Derek Jacobson is a Bereavement Counsellor and Relationship Effectiveness Specialist. Derek describes himself as a lifelong learner, combining life experience with his expertise to help people to address their emotional needs after loss.