Positive Coping Skills for our Souls.
Guilt can quickly take over after the death of a loved one. We start questioning every thought, feeling, decision, and act of care that we provided. There are ways to cope and challenge guilt:
- Be realistic about what you can/could control. We often begin thinking that we could have changed the situation somehow and that “If I had only” would somehow bring back our loved one. Challenge these thoughts by focusing on what you have control over now and positive memories.
- Use Affirmations. Spend some time identifying positive qualities about yourself or thinking about what care and support you were able to provide to your loved one. Make positive statements to yourself regarding the love you had for this person. One statement that I use often is “I did the best that I could with the knowledge that I had”.
- Let go of perfectionism. You are human. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes and choices are not always clear in life. Striving for perfection in any part of our lives is a recipe for failure, since it can never be attained. Focus on what you feel you did well with and challenge the idea of being perfect.
- Express your guilt. Take time to write out thoughts and feelings of guilt or share these with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Consider writing about specific reasons why you feel guilty and attempt to explore why you are feeling this way. Is it really something that you did wrong or just one of the many emotions that you will face?
- Challenge your thoughts. Write out your thought. Now take time to challenge this thought to determine if it is rational. Is there really anything you could have done to change the situation? Did you really do something intentionally to feel guilty about? Even though guilt is “normal” during the grief process these thoughts are often irrational and have no validation.
- Find positive thoughts to balance your guilt thoughts. “Thought stopping” is a technique with mixed reviews among the mental health crowd. The idea is this – when you notice a negative thought taking over (ie guilt) make a conscious effort to stop and replace the thought. Though it may not be quite this simple, there is value in having a positive thought to balance negative guilt thoughts you experience. For example, if you are feeling guilt that you were not there at the moment of your loved one’s death, when that thought comes up be prepared with a thought about the many times you were there.
- Get support. Consider getting to a grief support group or attending counseling to help you process your feelings. Don’t forget to use your support system and allow them to provide support that you need.
- Forgive yourself. Easier said than done, right? Remember, forgiveness does not mean condoning or excusing. Forgiveness can mean accepting that we may have done something we regret, but finding new attitude and perspective toward ourselves in relation to that action. It doesn’t mean we forget, but means we find a way to move forward.
- Engage in self care. Take some time out of your day to focus on your own self care and emotional health. Do something enjoyable or relaxing and let your mind have a break from all of the emotions of the grief process.
- Consider what your loved one would tell you. Get yourself in a space to truly focus on thinking about your loved one. Imagine telling them how you are feeling – your regrets, your guilt, all of it. If there are things you wish you had said, say them. Then imagine what your loved one would tell you.