Losing a loved one means we are left behind with all our memories, questions, thoughts and feelings of what if, if only, I should have, and so on. It is very normal and healthy to reflect on your feelings. “A life of no regrets doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make and no opportunity to be braver with your life,” says Brené Brown. When we lose a loved one, we are left with questions and deep emotions.
Our unspoken thoughts and questions are the troublemakers that lead to guilt and regret. Guilt is the most painful companion of losing a loved one and we become trapped in debilitating feelings and fear that the door has been shut forever. These unprocessed feelings fester and become thoughts that feed your anxiety loop. We become fixated with our feelings of guilt, shame and remorse.
We need to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings. When you acknowledge them and reflect on them it is an opportunity to sift through the layers of beliefs we hold about ourselves and our loved ones, what we think was expected from us and why we made certain decisions. A grief councillor can help you navigate the process through conversations. When we express our feelings, we reveal our emotions and start making sense of our world and ourselves. In the process we challenge our beliefs, guilt and regrets and we can consider making amends.
The truth is that we never truly let go of the people we love. Releasing negative emotions around our loss and finding new meaning in our lives does not mean we have forgotten our loved one or that we no longer miss them. Releasing regret and guilt means you are honouring your loved one. By letting go of these feelings and by forgiving yourself, you also release yourself from anxiety and sadness.
Bidwell Smith, C: Anxiety, the Missing Stage of Grief, Hatchett, New York 2018.