If you read my blog regularly, you’ll already know I have lost both of my parents. My Dad died suddenly in 2007 at 54. I was 23 at the time. My Mum passed away suddenly in 2016, at 64. I was 32 then. It’s safe to say it’s been a roller coaster of emotions. So with that in mind, today I am talking about guilt when grieving. I am 12 years into this journey, and it still happens.
Guilt When Grieving – The Early Days
In the immediate days after my Dad dying, I spent a lot of time feeling extremely guilty. “What if I hadn’t gone to work that day“? “What if I had answered the phone sooner“? Of course there were plenty of other emotions too. Anger was rife back then.
When my Mum died, the guilt when grieving was much more intense. I felt sick with guilt for months afterwards. It took me a long time to move past it, and accept that I couldn’t change anything.
Guilt When Grieving – Years Later
A couple of days ago, I woke up as normal and set about my day. Then I opened timehop, and realised it was my Dad’s birthday. The overwhelming guilt hit me like a ton of bricks. To say I was wiped out would be an understatement. There were snotty tears, nausea and guilt like I have never felt before. It felt like I’d forgotten my Dad. It was the 13th birthday without him, and I’d forgotten.
Dealing With Guilt
I wish I could tell you there’s an easy way to work through guilt, but in my experience, there isnt. For me, I had to process my feelings and eventually accept that my parents dying wasn’t my fault. This past weekend was different. I felt like I had failed him. Silly, I know… My Dad was the most forgetful person I’ve ever known. He’d have found it funny if he were still alive. It’s not like I missed the day entirely, after all.
So what now? After the sledgehammer of the weekend, I decided that life’s too short to worry about the small stuff. I’m only human. My life is crazy, and unrelenting. I’m sure my Dad wouldn’t hold it against me that I didn’t make it to the Crematorium to leave flowers. I still spent a fair bit of time talking about him with the Grandkids he never got to meet, but would have adored.
Stages Of Grieving
Traditionally, there are 5 stages of grief… Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Working through them will take time. I’m fairly sure I skipped bargaining altogether both times. Emotional stages of grief include: shock, disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger and fear. I definitely experienced all of these, though not in the order they are listed.
Additionally, Physical symptoms of grief can include: Insomnia, fatigue, nausea, changes to your weight, achiness and lowered immunity. When my Dad died, Insomnia was a real issue. I didn’t go to bed at all the first few days, as somehow, waking up and it being a different day seemed much worse. I am a comfort eater, and piled on the pounds when each of my parents died. Not everybody will go through every stage, and the order of them will vary from person to person.
If you are struggling with grief, My advice is to talk about your feelings. Bottling it up won’t help. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and ignoring grief won’t make it go away. Some people won’t know what to say or do when you’re grieving. It doesn’t mean they don’t care though. Time is irrelavent when it comes to grief. This weekend proved that. twelve and a half years later, I felt as raw as I did the day after my Dad passed away. Be kind to yourself.