Grieving, Guilt and Letting Go: 3 Pointers That Help

When your loved one dies initially, your world is consumed with thoughts of them. You expect that, others expect that, and while it is extremely painful, there is a kind of appropriateness about it all. After all, it IS painful when someone dies.

But further on, what happens when you feel moments of peace or happiness? Are they followed by swathes of guilt, as in ‘I mustn’t feel glad, they’ve died, and I ought to feel sad’. Or ‘I can’t move on, that’ll mean I’m forgetting them’ or ‘I mustn’t forget them, otherwise I’ll be betraying the memory”.

Feeling guilty or ashamed because your grief is changing is all too common. For me, I rarely felt like this, but I think that was because I already knew that grief would change. Besides, within one week of my husband dying, I was out walking in the woods on a beautiful sunny day and feeling happy! I was curious about this, rather than feeling guilty. I wanted to know how it could possibly be that happiness could come to visit when I was in such depths of despair. And yet it had done, so what was going on?

Well, happiness didn’t pay a very long visit that time. It wasn’t long before I was back to feeling sad, bereft, angry, tearful, lonely and all the other emotions that we associate more easily with grief. In some ways I felt more at ease with them. But I did recognize that, rather confusingly, grief consists of ALL emotions; and they ALL pass through if we let them. This became an important part of my own grieving process.

In some ways I felt more at ease with them. But I did recognize that, rather confusingly, grief consists of ALL emotions; and they ALL pass through if we let them. This became an important part of my own grieving process.

In my book I wrote an excerpt from my journal, written about 6 months after Philip died:

Grief, which I’m not too keen on, knocks on the front door of my house. If I open the door and say hallo, and then I also open the back door, it can pass through on its visit as quickly as possible. That helps.

When we allow ourselves to feel the emotions, they can pass through more easily. When we do that, we automatically find ourselves ‘moving on’, whether we like it or not. But if you equate this with ‘forgetting your loved one’, then you are likely also to be dampening down feelings, trying to close the door to them, to not have them, or only have the ones you think are appropriate.

When we do that, we automatically find ourselves ‘moving on’, whether we like it or not. But if you equate this with ‘forgetting your loved one’, then you are likely also to be dampening down feelings, trying to close the door to them, to not have them, or only have the ones you think are appropriate.

It doesn’t help in the long run. And you are in life for the long run, more likely than not.

So what can you do to help yourself with this process of letting go and grieving?  Here’s 3 Pointers:

Here’s 3 Pointers:

1. Feel what you feel.

None of the feelings mean anything other than they are a form of grief in the moment. They certainly don’t mean you are loving your loved one any less, or that you are forgetting them. Don’t attach any meaning to them; it doesn’t help. What does help is to remember Louise Hay’s famous statement ‘What you feel, you can heal’. (Louise Hay, with whom I personally trained way back in 1990, wrote the famous ‘You Can Heal Your Life’, and is founder of Hay House Publishing).

2. Find a positive way to remember your loved one.

For instance, talk to them. I did this all the time, out loud.

Put your photos of them up – and take them down again if you feel like it. Mine went up and down all the time, and still do sometimes. Write to them (that’s what my journal writings consisted of for quite a long time; and then eventually they became less written to Philip, and more just musings, as they had always been before). I deliberately chose to think fondly of my husband and our car whenever I drove anywhere. He had loved that car, and somehow it made me feel closer to him when I loved it too.

Write to them (that’s what my journal writings consisted of for quite a long time; and then eventually they became less written to Philip, and more just musings, as they had always been before). I deliberately chose to think fondly of my husband and our car whenever I drove anywhere. He had loved that car, and somehow it made me feel closer to him when I loved it too.

I deliberately chose to think fondly of my husband and our car whenever I drove anywhere. He had loved that car, and somehow it made me feel closer to him when I loved it too.

How can you talk to your loved one?

 

3. Take tiny, positive actions.

MakingBedFor a long time, this for me meant making my bed. If I did that (which simply consisted of pulling the duvet up) that signified to me that I was doing okay, no matter what else happened that day. I consciously chose this action to signify that.

Slowly, the tiny actions branched out as I plugged into life again. For instance, I made sure I had at least telephone contact if not face to face contact with one friend or family member each day.

My sister offered to ring me every day and while my first thought was to say ‘no, no, I’ll be fine’, something stopped me. Her words really touched me, my crying started afresh and I accepted her offer. That went on for two months and we discovered a new depth in our relationship.

You are possibly already taking some positive actions. If not, what tiny action could you take today, and each day onwards? Or what other tiny action could you take? (Remember they won’t necessarily feel tiny, even if your mind says it is. There’s not much tinier than pulling up a duvet…).

Which tiny actions have helped you? Let me know in the comments box.

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2 Responses to Grieving, Guilt and Letting Go: 3 Pointers That Help

  1. Nicky Stansbury January 28, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    A great read Jane! Love your shares and tips on letting grief come in and out in whatever way it shows up.

    • Jane Duncan Rogers January 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

      Thanks Nicky!

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