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Dealing With Guilt After a Loss

Topic Overview

It is common to feel some kind of guilt or regret after losing a loved one, an opportunity, or a valued way of life.

If you find yourself feeling guilty about a past action or inaction, set aside time to think about your feelings and work through the following exercise.

  • Write a list of your "should haves" and "shouldn't haves."
  • Remind yourself that we all have things we would do differently if given the chance.
  • Identify any regrets that you can act upon, such as thanking a friend who you never properly thanked for an act of kindness.
  • Forgive yourself for those regrets that you cannot act on to correct.
  • Recognize what you have done well, and congratulate yourself for it. This may help you put things in better perspective.

Be gentle with yourself during this exercise. When looking back on something in your past, you can usually see the situation more clearly and think of a better way to handle it. Remind yourself that you did the best you could, given your circumstances at the time.

If you are having trouble forgiving yourself, talk with a trusted friend, a member of the clergy, or a health professional. Sharing regrets or guilty feelings with another person often helps us overcome them.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Sidney Zisook, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised November 4, 2013

Last Revised: November 4, 2013

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