Chapter 2: Coping with your guilt

Stories about coping with guilt

Here are 3 stories about grieving people facing their guilt. As you read them, consider if you can use any of their coping methods.

I should have insisted that we talk about his death. I sensed he was suffering greatly. Every time I tried to bring up the subject, he would shut down the conversation. Even though I know that he was never someone to talk about his emotions, part of me still feels that if I had only found the right words, I might have been able to connect with him.

Someone once told me that we die like we lived. If my father was not someone to talk before, why would dying necessarily change that?

The more I thought about it, I realized my father might have needed to keep his emotions from me. He wanted to be my father, strong and stoic to the end. Imagining how much he lost over the course of his illness, maybe it was one of the few things he could still control. When I think about who my dad was and why he would have acted the way he did, I realize I did all I could and in the end it was his decision.  And with this in mind, I feel less guilty.

I had made a promise to him early on that we would stay at home right up until the end. Towards the end I was burning out, up multiple times at night, doing all sorts of caregiving tasks I never imagined I would have to do. When the nurse over the phone told me it was time to bring him into the hospital, part of me knew she was right. But he was very upset. He loved our house and I think he felt safe there among his belongings.

A part of me feels like maybe I could have tried harder, held out longer, insisted more with the health care staff...all these things to have kept my word and not be left with this crushing guilt.

We made decisions with whatever information we had at that time. Neither of us were prepared for just how difficult it was going to be or how much help we were going to need. There were forces at play that were much more powerful than us, and much more powerful than the idealistic plans we had originally made.

I wasn’t present the moment she died. I was so tired. I needed desperately to sleep. The nurse told me that she seemed stable, though of course warned me that things could change at any time and deteriorate quickly. I took a chance. I feel like I betrayed her in her utmost hour of need.

I sometimes have to remind myself of a few things. First off, I am only human. I can’t predict the future and it is easy to chastise myself for a decision made under duress.

Of course I wanted to be there. My absence has nothing whatsoever to do with what I truly wanted. It sure isn’t the first time something didn’t work out the way I had planned. I also know in my heart that my relationship comes down to a lot more than just my being there for her death. I refuse to let that one moment define the relationship for the rest of my life.