Why do I feel guilty about moving on after someone has died?
July 29, 2021
When someone has died, we may feel guilty at the thought of carrying on as normal without them. Perhaps you feel that other people are judging you, but of course they don’t know what it’s actually like to BE you, right now. This can be hurtful, confusing and make us feel pulled in different directions.
It could even be that we’re the ones being too hard on ourselves; we might feel that by living our life and having fun, we’re being unfair to the person who has died – we might even wonder what the point is in doing things without them.
Is it normal to feel this way?
The feelings we go through after a person has died (grieving) are absolutely normal and necessary – even though parts of it can feel really hard, and generally quite rubbish. But it’s different for everyone so what it looks like for you can be very different to what it looks like for someone else. Everyone goes through it differently, and our personal situations will make it unique to each of us.
Some people might find it easy to recognise, feel and show emotions and others might find it really hard to name their feelings or show them to others. And both of those are OK, so let’s try not to judge ourselves against how we (or others) think that we ‘should’ be doing things! It’s about what works for and feels comfortable for us as individuals. Although people may have their own opinions, it is important to remember that this is your story, not theirs.
How can I prepare for grief?
When we know that someone is going to die, it means we might have a lot longer to think about and prepare for the end and beyond, perhaps before others even know the person is unwell. Some people say that grief actually starts when you get the news that the person is never going to get better whereas for some, the reality of the situation only sinks in at the funeral. Again, there is no right or wrong here, it’s about being open to our own feelings, not what others think that they should be.
It may be that in your family, you’ve had time to talk about what will happen after the person has died and how you might renegotiate the family dynamic in the future. You might already have planned that family holiday or birthday celebration but for other friends and wider family who’ve not been part of those conversations, this can seem as though things are moving very fast and they might struggle to ‘catch up’. That’s not your fault at all, but it can explain why people might not seem to understand your experience.
Try not to allow people without all of the facts to influence you and remember, just because you might feel guilty, it doesn’t mean that you are guilty.
How can I stop feeling this way?
If you find yourself really struggling with feeling guilty about living without your loved one and it’s affecting you a lot, then speaking to somebody you trust, can really help. This might be another member of your family (you may even find they feel similarly!), somebody outside your family like a tutor or close friend or a professional like your doctor or a counsellor.
Whatever your feelings are, they are important and it can really help to find ways to accept and process them. It can be useful in this situation to think about what the person who has died wanted for us and how we might feel if the situation was reversed. What would we want for our loved ones in this scenario?
Look at the reasoning for your guilt; where is it coming from? What is it really about? Sometimes we accept that what we are thinking must be factually true but this isn’t always the case. Where is the proof for your thinking? How helpful or accurate are the words you’re using? What other things may be affecting your situation? What might some alternatives be?
Remember, you’re going through one of the hardest things there is – losing a loved one. So be kind to yourself. Take time out to remember what the person you are grieving was like and what they might have wanted for you and try not to take the views of others to heart, especially if they don’t have all the facts. It’s possible that they are being guided by their own pain, so if you feel able to, reach out to them instead of falling out and try to remember, honour and live alongside the memory of those who are no longer with us with love and kindness.