Grieving Process Newly Widowed

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE GUILT OF SURVIVORSHIP DURING GRIEF

How-to-deal-Survivors-Guilt-Grief-The-Jolly-Widow

Many of us are plagued by the guilt of survivorship during grief, preventing us from fully healing and moving forward in our lives.

There is certainly not a time limit to grieving. Some of us may be able to heal from it within a year or two.  Others may still be suffering from the pain years later even after surviving the initial tougher stages of the grieving process, plagued by the debilitating grasp of survivor’s guilt.

In some cases, survivor’s guilt keeps us stuck in grief for much longer than we want while feelings like anger, sadness, confusion, non-acceptance, haunt us in our wake.  Despite our constant struggle to wriggle out of the quick sand of despair, there is also a part of us that’s simply not ready to move on.

A PART OF US NEEDS THE SUFFERING

A part of us subconsciously needs the suffering which then causes us to feel guilty about letting go.  We mistakenly think we need to suffer because we are the surviving spouse – because we are here, and they are gone.

If they passed away due to an illness, or in an accident, you might feel like you could have done more to save them.  The same guilt trap also kept me stuck in that perpetual black hole for the majority of my mourning process.

If your loved one died “young,” or at a younger age than what you may consider “normal,” feelings of anger and injustice may also accompany the guilt. (E.g. My fiancé passed at the age of 29, and it was a harsh reality to come to terms with).

If you are struggling with survivor’s guilt, you may be experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Insomnia/dysregulated sleep patterns (e.g. the Triad Sleep pattern, waking up every 3 hours)
  • Paralyzed in bed most days
  • Chronic feelings of fear, anxiety, and heart palpitations
  • Cloudy thought processes that affects your ability to make decisions

Know that you are not alone.

Whatever perceived storm cloud in this moment, will pass, just like any other temporary experience in life.

The key is staying grounded, accepting this moment, and accepting any emotions that may arise.

YOUR THOUGHTS ARE TRAPPING YOU

Your thoughts are effectively trapping you in perpetuating feelings of survivor’s guilt.  You may think your loved one died “before their time”, or they had an entire life ahead of them, or you may believe they didn’t “deserve to die” because they were too good/too gifted of a person, or Death should have taken you instead.

In reality, these are nothing but ego-based thoughts seeking concrete justification, or validation, where there are none.

While it’s natural to question reality, doing so repeatedly will only keep you in a never-ending cycle of repetitive thoughts with no real conclusions, depleting you of any remaining vital energy.

There’s no way you could reach any solid answers to these ruminations, so why lead yourself down that path?

SPIRITUAL REASONS FOR AN “EARLY” DEATH

On a metaphysical level, no one has permission to take away the life of an individual without their consent. 

The time and date of death for each of us have been established on a soul level, before we were even born.

The decision might have been reached during an in-depth deliberation between members of your soul family, beyond our conscious awareness in the physical realm.

This outcome may be the most essential one to accelerate the soul growth of the members in the rest of your soul group.

Or it may be that your spouse or loved one has completed their life purpose and soul mission for this lifetime – whether it’s resolving karmic debt, or learning core life lessons.

These are only my jabs at an attempt to understand the intricate workings of the Divine.  But truth is, we don’t know.

We won’t know the mysteries behind God’s grand plan until it’s our time to return Home to the other side.  Only then and there will we experience the ultimate revelation, and reunite with loved ones who have gone before us.

COMING TO ACCEPTANCE WITH REALITY

Right now, we only have to accept the current situation and work on healing ourselves from this loss.

If you feel stuck in grief due to the incessant molestation of survivor’s guilt, please know that:

You have done everything you could have done at the time, to the best of your abilities.

There was nothing you could have done to prevent their death.

Give yourself permission to forgive.  Forgive yourself and any other person involved, and embrace the feeling of guilt.  Forgive yourself and any perceived “hurt” inflicted on the deceased.  Forgive anyone you feel might have been responsible for the death of your loved one.

It might be tempting to blame someone involved in the situation leading to the passing of your love one.

But there is really no one to blame for the death of your loved one. Regardless of our human-level preconceptions about whether or not an individual was directly or indirectly responsible for our spouse’s death.

Our death is pre-planned.

Only by accepting and fully feeling these feelings can we go beyond them.  Guilt is only another expression of love in a masquerade.

5 PRACTICAL WAYS THAT MAY HELP YOU OVERCOME SURVIVOR’S GUILT:

  1. Embrace widowhood as the opportunity to learn financial independence.  For instance, if you were in charge of household duties while your spouse was the primary bread-winner.  Or to revive long-forgotten personal dreams and aspirations that you never had the chance to pursue while in the relationship.
  2. Schedule a few sessions with a grief counselor, or therapist.  If you prefer an impersonal setting, I’d recommend participating in support groups from your local community center, or church.
  3. Talk or write to your spouse, as if they were still around.  Express your feelings of guilt.  Air out any dirty laundry.  Sometimes all you need is an outlet for your emotions.  Once you’ve consciously processed these feelings through tangible means, they’ll gradually fade.
  4.  Set the intention to release any feelings of guilt. Intention setting is a powerful way to synchronize your body, mind, and spirit.  To make sure all three parts of you are on the same page.  Saying the intention out loud, or solidifying these thoughts onto paper are effective ways to program your conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind. (I.e. “I wish to let go of all feelings of guilt surrounding the death of my loved one/spouse. I love and accept myself unconditionally.”)
  5. Praying to God or a Higher Being. You may refer to this higher power as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, your Higher Self, Supreme Being, Over-Soul, or Spirit.  The name doesn’t matter.  What matters is the act of prayer itself.  Praying helps us access the Divinity that is present within each of us. In praying, we surrender all of our grief and fears to a Higher power which helps relieve us of psychological distress.

When you have these feelings of guilt arise, allow yourself to fully feel it and find ways to express it.  Forgive your deceased loved one, forgive anyone directly or indirectly involved in the situation, and most importantly, forgive yourself.  Remember that you have done everything you could, and their death was completely out of your realm of control.

Release any remaining remnant of guilt you maybe holding on to, when you feel ready.

Have any effective tips that I’ve missed? How did you deal with the guilt of survivorship during your toughest times? Let us know in the comment section below!

How to Deal w Survivor's Guilt - The Jolly Widow

6 Comments

  1. It is very difficult to overcome guilt when you know that you could have done more to help that persons suffering while they were still alive. I don’t know why I see it all so clearly now. My husband spent so many years telling me how difficult I was making life for him, financially mainly, but I ignored him and carried on. I hurt him deeply because I was like a child feeling resentments I had no right to. My husband was one of the most kind and generous and thoughtful people that I know and I abandoned him when he was weak, I wasn’t aware of cruel I was to him until after he died. How can this possibly be right?

    1. Hi Julia,

      I understand you may be overridden with guilt and shame due to your past actions. But please understand that sometimes, we humans tend to project our pain onto others, especially towards our spouses. Our significant others are often our biggest mirrors – reflecting our best traits, as well as our biggest unhealed emotional wounds, which tends to create a never-ending cycle of “projection” towards one another, if our wounds are left unhealed. I can only assume that both of you were acting from a place of great unaddressed pain, which is not a fault of your own. Both of you were merely unconsciously acting from that place of unhealed “programming.”
      I’m not sure how long it’s been since your husband has passed, but our loved ones are closer to us in Spirit than ever before because they are no longer limited by a physical form. You can really experience the love from your husband if you are willing, and are open to it. I experienced many energetic “hugs” from my fiance as warm tingles, and sometimes chills on my body. But our loved ones send signs in many ways, as I’ve mentioned in a more elaborate response to another one of your comments on this post (https://thejollywidow.com/7-rituals-heal-faster-grief/). I hope this helps Julia, please let me know as it has been a while since you’ve left this comment!

    1. I’m sorry for your loss Rebecca. I’m so glad this article helped you. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need additional support at thejollywidow@gmail.com. I am working on new articles so if there’s any topic you’d like for me to cover, feel free to suggest.

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