Feelings of guilt over the deceased mother: a detailed look at the issue

I feel guilty about my mother’s death

Hello, my name is Lena and I am 36 years old. My mother died 1.5 years ago from a stroke she was 58 years old. All this time I have been living with guilt and depression after her death, as I feel guilty. The thing is that it all started 2 years before she died, when I started living with a man she just did not accept in every way and you can say she hated him. She even begged me to leave him, we parted for a while and then came back together. It seems to me that I drove her to a stroke. Lately I’ve been having a terrible depression, I do not want to live, I have guilt in my soul. My mother dreams of me and scolds me for living with him. I want to die. I want to my mother. I understand that her death was caused by illness as she was hypertensive and suffered from high blood sugar, obesity, smoking, bad work. But I drove her. I am to blame. I am tired of living with this feeling.

Received eight pieces of advice from psychologists.

Ella Chirkova

Ella Chirkova

Hello Elena. I have a lot of sympathy for you, both because you lost a loved one, and because you are living with such a heavy feeling. Generally feeling of guilt is always an imposed feeling from outside, and apparently it was successfully imposed on you too, and probably long before your mom’s death. You have listed almost the entire set of contributing to serious health complications and at the same time do not want to admit that it was still your mother’s responsibility to monitor her health and lifestyle.

In your case, of course, you need therapy. Choose a psychologist that you can trust. Good luck. Ella.

We always feel guilty about the parents who left.

For not loving enough. For not saying the important words. For not doing the right thing.

And yet we should not take it upon ourselves to do God’s work.

No one leaves this life without His knowledge.

Your feeling of guilt is not good for you or your loved ones.

One could even say that you are taking on too much responsibility, too much.

I think you don’t understand everything in other aspects of your life either, and your relationship with life needs to be looked at closely.

Maybe even a change.

That kind of work will help you deal with your grief and step into the light.

The light of this life.

Decide to do this kind of work.

Hello Elena! You really need psychological help – in DIALOG, so choose a psychologist and apply face-to-face. Children, when they are young, depend on their parents and need not only love, custody, attention and care, but also depend on them financially. And when they grow up, they become adults and are able to rely on themselves, earn their own money and build a life for themselves, including the choice of a partner of their choice. And that’s where it’s important to separate your own from someone else’s, imposed from the outside on your own choices and preferences. Of course your mother, as well as anyone else, also has her own choice – to include herself in her own life: to take care of herself, or to include herself in the relationships of others – without their wish, and then it is a question of violating boundaries or penetrating into the boundaries of another. And then we are not talking about actual guilt, but about insinuated guilt or some other guilt. This is something you need to deal with together with a psychologist, so you don’t have to carry around something that doesn’t belong to you, but is definitely destroying your life! You are welcome. Sincerely, Lyudmila K.

Hello, Elena! What exactly, in your opinion, did you do to your mom? Because you chose a man who is not to her liking, but to yours? By not agreeing to part with him under her pressure? Do you really think you should have relied on your mother’s opinion when choosing a sexual partner? You are certainly not responsible for the way your mother lived: how she dealt with her health, with her life, with her feelings, etc. I recommend you to see a psychologist face to face. I am ready to be useful to you. Tatiana.

Kaidarova Asel Abdu-Aliyevna

Kaidarova Asel Abdu-Aliyevna

Hello Elena! It is normal that you feel guilty about your mother. This feeling always appears in those who survived; it seems to them that while alive he treated the deceased badly, did not listen, did not pay enough attention, something was not said in detail. There is even a name for this condition: survivor syndrome. If your mother smoked and had high blood pressure, plus diabetes mellitus, which primarily affects the blood vessels, then these reasons were much more important for what happened to her. And you cannot be responsible for her health, nor for her life, much less for her death. You are not God. You need to work off the trauma of loss. Your depression and guilt have a very negative effect on your health. But it is possible to confront it and live a full life. A year and a half is a good time to start a new life. Normally, the grief of a loss lasts for a year and a half. And if you are still not out of this state, you need the help of a psychologist. So choose a psychologist and start working. You will feel better. Good luck to you!

Miroshnichenko Larisa Vladimirovna

Miroshnichenko Larisa Vladimirovna

Hello, Elena. You wanted your mother to agree with your choice, to reconcile herself with the fact that you chose this man and continue to be with him… So that she would forgive you for not listening to her. And now you can’t convince her, you can’t explain anything to her. And you miss your mother so much, you feel responsible for her and you feel like you could have influenced what happened… Sad as it is, we are really powerless in the face of death and if someone is destined to go, they go, regardless of the efforts made or not made by those around them. Of course, your relationship with this man didn’t add to her joy of life, but, with her diagnoses, she hasn’t had joy of life in a long time, and it wasn’t up to you. But that’s “from the brain.” And from the heart – there is an illusion that if you had been a good daughter, and you didn’t upset your mother, your mother would have died anyway, but then you would have been uninvolved… But it is impossible to be uninvolved neither in the life, nor in the death of your loved ones. All the same, there is a feeling of involvement and the ability to influence events. And in the case of death, this feeling can be stronger than it is in reality. Because it is difficult and frightening to admit your powerlessness before death and your inability to influence the death of your loved ones or your own. And you are a grain of sand in the face of the fact that your mother’s time is over. A grain of sand that thinks it is a giant barchan. And that’s why you have these dreams – of powerlessness, and of longing, of fear, of the illusion that you could have done more and better than you did. And it’s all hiding under a mask of guilt. You’ve been alone for too long with all these feelings, it’s really exhausting. For too long, you really need the help of a professional to have the strength to do something about it.

Regards, Larisa.

Birzhanova Zhanat Amantayevna

Birzhanova Zhanat Amantayevna

It is always hard to feel guilty. Feeling tired of guilt is the body’s signal of mental overload.

Do you think your mother would sincerely wish that you felt guilty? Or would she still be happy to see you free, smiling, and happy?

Feelings of guilt over a deceased loved one: how to deal with it?

When a loved one dies, there is often a feeling of guilt: did not give, did not say, did not do, and now there is nothing to fix. Is this guilt always fair, or is there something else behind it?

The death of a loved one is associated not only with a sense of grief, but also with the experience of guilt.

When a loved one passes away, it seems that you are to blame: tired of the difficult care and painful last days, something was not given, did not take to another hospital, did not buy another medicine, stayed alive when he died.

Why does it arise and how justified? Psychologist, Director of Christian Psychological Service “Candle”, Doctor of Biological Sciences Alexandra Imasheva answers.

How and why guilt arises

Feelings of guilt at the loss of a loved one always arise. It is a normal reaction to the death of a loved one. Almost everyone who experiences loss experiences a feeling of guilt over the deceased.

This feeling can take many forms: guilt for the relief experienced, the end of a terrible, difficult period of illness of a loved one (it turns out, the person thinks that his death was the payment for my release, and I am glad of it). More often there is guilt for something that seems not to have been done or not to have been done completely (the wrong doctor was called, the wrong treatment).

Guilt for the injustice done (or allegedly done) to the deceased while he was alive can torment you: you rarely visited him, called him little, cared for him poorly, and now there is nothing you can do about it.

There is even guilt for the fact that your neighbor died and you are still alive, “but he was better than me.

Sometimes guilt comes second, for example, first there is anger at the deceased – why did you leave me! – or at God (fate) – why did God take him away?! – and then immediately comes guilt: how could I think so, what a scoundrel I am. Guilt will find something to cling to.

It is extremely rare that guilt does have some basis in fact. For example, if our neighbor was very sick and didn’t want to be treated, and we went along with him because we didn’t want to bother with him. And then he died, and we feel guilty.

Or if his illness imposed restrictions on him (such as eating) and we ignored them and fed him everything, which led to a worsening of his illness and death.

Or if he suffered greatly from your quarrel and wanted to reconcile, and you refused him, and it greatly overshadowed his last days and hours.

In such rare cases of justified guilt, confession and repentance for the believer or a psychologist for the atheist will help.

But usually the guilt that almost inevitably comes after the death of a loved one is completely irrational.

It is also experienced by psychologists, who know perfectly well the mechanism by which this feeling arises and its unreasonableness. “I understand everything, – says the psychologist, – I know why it happens, I can lay it out, but I still feel guilty after mom’s death: I put her in the wrong hospital, I brought the wrong medicine. And after all, my mother was 89 years old, and she survived three heart attacks. Irrational guilt clings to any of the possible causes listed above and begins to gnaw at the person.

So why does it arise?

Death is a huge, out-of-control and completely unknowable event. It is as if we are looking into an impenetrable abyss.

When we experience the death of a neighbor, first we feel that there is nothing we can do, nothing we can prevent, and second, we inevitably realize that the same thing awaits us.

Our psyche finds itself in a very difficult situation of complete loss of control over what is happening, of absolute helplessness and experiencing complete uncertainty. An existential fear arises, bringing us back to a certain primary meaning: who I am and why I live, if my life too will inevitably end.

This leads us to an enormous, all-consuming horror that is simply unbearable: if you let it go, it will drive you mad. How is it possible that I will be gone!

The horror of meeting death “face to face” is so strong that it is easier for us to experience unpleasant feelings of guilt or anger, just to cover this fear with them.

Mental defense mechanisms operate beyond our desire and awareness: first, shock and denial “turn on” and make us “not see” death, then anger and guilt erupt.

Feelings of guilt and anger over the death of a loved one are the psyche’s response to its own helplessness, its inability to “control” the death

Feeling of guilt in this case is a compensatory feeling, which is designed, at least in an illusory form, to return us the possibility of control over what is happening. It is easier for us to feel guilty for not getting the right medicine (an action we can take control of!) and thus not preventing death (the illusion of control over death!) than to openly admit to ourselves that we could not help in any way so that the person did not die.

In other cases, guilt is a form of experiencing the irreversibility of what has happened and understanding that nothing can be changed. It is again a loss of control over what has happened, which is unbearable for us. For example, if when my mother-in-law was alive we fought with her, but we knew that in principle we could reconcile, then after her death this possibility is gone forever. Gone from our control. And this loss of power over reality is experienced as guilt over unrealized opportunities.

Exactly for the same reason a feeling of anger arises at the death of a neighbor. This is the psyche’s response to its own complete helplessness, its furious protest.

And anger can “cling” to anything that seems adequate to our psyche: anger at the deceased (how could he leave me!?), anger at God (how could He take him!?), anger at doctors (why didn’t they save him?!). But in the end, these are all just reactions of our psyche to our utter helplessness in the face of death.

Of course, it is much easier for believers to experience both the death of a neighbor and the thought of their own mortality. In the mind of a believer, death is not the end and disappearance, but a transition to another form of existence, so there remains hope of meeting with the departed, of being reconciled with them, and, very importantly, faith that even death will not make you disappear completely.

How to recover from the death of your neighbor

There is a tendency in today’s culture to get rid of negative feelings as quickly as possible.

Long suffering, long grief is not welcomed by society, such a person is looked at obliquely and tried by all means to “get” him out of this state.

They use hatched consolations such as “don’t cry”, “do something else”, “take your mind off something”, “pull yourself together”, “it is time for you to calm down” and other pseudo-positive recipes that do not work.

They do not help, but irritate or make you feel even more guilty – because with their suffering you strain others. A person tries to “skip over” their grief as quickly as possible, does not experience it fully and only drives it deep inside.

But our grief at the loss of a loved one is payment for our love for him or her. And the stronger the love, the deeper will be the grief, so do not be ashamed of it, consider yourself weak, to go along with those who believe that it is time to stop suffering. Grieving takes time: to survive the grief of the death of a loved one, you need at least a year.

Psychologists speak of the “work of grief” – the loss must be accepted, lived through and experienced. After this, in a normal situation, grief turns into light sadness and bright memories. If a year and a half passes, and it does not get easier, then it is unhealthy experience of grief, and requires the help of a specialist – a psychologist or psychotherapist.

How quickly the heavy grief will pass, it also depends on our relationship with the deceased.

If the relationship was good, healthy, then the grief will be easier, if they were something complicated, and grieving will be more difficult.

We will see all the time that nothing can be undone, and this irreversibility will put additional pressure on us.

But we have to live up to it. In the beginning, after the initial shock of the loss, there will be many negative feelings – anger, guilt, longing, and loneliness. Guilt, which takes many forms, may arise right in the first days after the death of a loved one and remain until the end of grieving. Feeling guilt over the deceased is a natural part of experiencing grief, and experiencing grief is the only way to return to normal life.

Grieve over grief

– No matter how bad things get, it is important to remind ourselves that grief will pass. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t forget the person or become indifferent to him or her, but the acute grief will be replaced by peaceful sadness.

You can write yourself on a piece of paper or card three statements and carry them around, take them out and reread, or stick them on the fridge so they are always before your eyes:

  • My feelings are normal.
  • I’ll get better.
  • I can handle it as others have done before me.

– If guilt is related to the relief experienced after the death of a seriously ill, tormented person, you should tell yourself that it was objectively a heavy burden, and the relief after the burden is lifted is a normal, natural feeling. There is no dislike for the deceased, no egoism, but an ordinary, uncontrollable reaction of the psyche to the release. This relief does not cancel the grief of death, nor does it diminish our love for the departed. And there is no need to punish ourselves for it.

– It is important to observe the rituals associated with death. It is not for nothing that they have been consecrated for centuries. The first thing that can alleviate the distress of loved ones is to take care of the funeral, funeral, cemetery, coffin, wreaths, flowers. Arranging a wake, gathering for nine and forty days are all things that really help to get through the grief. After all, by doing all these things, we show our concern for the deceased.

At the wake, we share our grief and love for the deceased with others, we talk and listen to others speak warm, good words about them, and we feel better.

A wake is a very compressed process of grief. It often happens that they begin with tears, even sobs, and end in a much more positive mood. It’s as if a whole year is lived in a few hours.

– Don’t banish memories of the deceased. Don’t try to “block them out” with other thoughts or distract yourself if they come. Don’t deliberately bring up these memories, especially if they are painful to you, but if they come up, dive into them and live them out.

– Cry. Tears are not too accepted in our culture, even if it is to cry for the deceased. One of the most trivial “consolations” is the entreaty of “don’t cry, calm down, drink some valerian.” In fact, tears are a natural painkiller (when a person cries, the body produces substances that calm the nervous system), and a way to express and thereby “let out” mental pain and sadness.

When a grieving person cries, it is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that the grief experience is moving in the right direction.

– Talk about the person who died and your experiences. If memories of your deceased loved one, their last days and other distressing things come up, you need to find someone to talk to about it.

It is common after a loss to want to talk about a loved one who has passed away, especially if their death was tragic and sudden. Often you want to share your feelings, talk about your worries. Do not be afraid to call a friend or girlfriend, honestly say: It’s very hard for me, I keep remembering the deceased, let’s talk to you about him.

Recommendation to friends and relatives of the grieving person: do not close from such conversations, and participate in them, so that the person does not feel trapped in his grief.

Patiently listen to everything he tells you. In a state of grief, especially in the first days after a loss, the grieving person may be verbose and repeat the same things, so don’t rush him. Or he may become silent – then just stay with him. Offer the grieving person practical help in making funeral or memorial arrangements. If they are feeling guilty about something they didn’t have time to do or say, or about the relief they experienced after the death of a seriously ill person, explain to them that this is understandable, natural and understandable.

– Try not to shut yourself away, no matter how much you might want to. Grief is a process that is better experienced with people. Even if you don’t want to talk, it is better to have them by your side. Communicating with those who have recently experienced a similar loss helps a lot.

– After some time (during the first year), be sure to sort out and give away the belongings of the deceased. It is not necessary to build a “temple” of the deceased person at home, to leave his room untouched, as if he were still alive. This will only prolong the experience of grief. Of course, getting rid of belongings of a dearly departed person is very hard, feeling as if with your own hands you finally give him and the memory of him. Usually with this flow of tears – let them flow. But during the first year, you have to do it.

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