July 7th, 2017 / Jake White
Why do we feel guilt and shame in relation to loss? When I talk to people about loss and grief, there always seems to be a component of guilt that moves into the conversation. Through energy healing sessions, I guide individuals into releasing the energy that is associated with these complex feelings and thoughts of shame and guilt in relation to grief. When I recently lost a loved one, I also experienced the intense repetitive thoughts that are associated with looking at the past and trying to figure out what I could have done differently in order to change the outcome of losing someone I loved. In this article I hope to provide some information as to why we feel guilt in relation to loss, how this helps us adjust to the reality of our loss, and the role compassion can play in helping us heal and find the way forward during the grieving process. When we lose someone, a part of us dies as well and guilt is the space in between the past and our future. Knowing that this is a natural part of the process of grieving can help us be gentle and guide ourselves through this stage with grace and understanding.
When I recently experienced a loss in my life, I consistently looked back at what I could have done differently to change the outcome. I thought to myself, could I have reached out to this person more; could I have made more of an effort to help them; why was I not there for them more? When I ran through these thoughts I knew that I could go through thousands of different scenarios that could have potentially changed the outcome of losing one of my best friends and family members. It is natural to look back and want to change the past. Of course I could have done more to help my friend because there is always more that I can do. This is what our mind does in relation to loss: it looks back and tries to figure out how we can preserve ourselves through a devastating experience and we do this for a very important reason. It helps us to bargain for more time to adjust to the loss that has occurred. In relation to my loss, thoughts of wanting to change the outcome of what happened brings this loved one to my mind and in a sense brings them back to me. This is how I create more time for myself to adjust to the truth of what has occurred. This is the purpose of our guilt and shame is that it brings this person to our consciousness and, in the case of my loss, helps me find ways of preserving this person in my life. Understanding this process and the pain that is caused from placing the burden on ourselves is one of the first places where compassion can become a part of our process. It is completely understandable that we would want to find ways of keeping a person that we lost present in our life. It is also completely understandable that we would want more time to adjust to the reality of our loss until we feel more stable in relation to the intense feelings that are associated with losing someone. This is the purpose of guilt in relation to loss, and understanding it completely can bring compassion back to our process.
In my recent experience with loss, I knew that the reality was that the person that I loved was gone. The truth was that I would never see them again and the place that they occupied in my life was now empty space. For me the time that I spent thinking about what I could have done brought up the reality of what had occurred and the space inside of myself that that person would no longer occupy in my life. My attempt to preserve this person through bargaining for time did bring up the realty of what had happened to them. This was hard for me to bear but did connect me to experiencing the fact that I had lost this person. In this loss, there is no more time or actions that can make up for it. In a way, I would call this acceptance, but it is not what we normally consider acceptance to be. Acceptance in relation to loss is an acknowledgement of what has happened and the reality of our experience in relation to our loss. In energy medicine, we are taught that all healing happens through the heart because it is the space of the now. All experiences that we have gone through are healed by being present for them in this moment. When I experienced my loss, this is where I landed when I started to move toward the truth that I could not change the outcome of what had happened. In many instances it is this deep feeling of sadness that we avoid in relation to most processes of healing because we are taught that deep emotions are out of control, unsafe, weak, messy, or untimely. For me, it was moving toward the heart that helped me find a more positive outlook in relation to my loss.
When I felt the full envelopment of losing my dear friend, it was unquestionable how deeply I felt for this person. It hurt to know what happened to them and that now there was nothing that I could do to change the outcome. I had to be with the experience of my loss and the emptiness that I was experiencing. Having guided people toward feeling the energy of loss that is absent of the guilt and shame that brings us away from it, I knew that I needed time in this place. I needed time to be with my feelings in relation to my loss. In our guilt, there is always a message that is being sent to us. For me, it was a way through my grief and a more positive approach to dealing with loss. I felt that I could have done more for my friend and I could have been there for him. When it comes to healing, it is these messages that get us through loss. The message for me was, I need to give myself more time to grieve rather than spending time trying to fix everything around me; I needed to take better care of myself through this process just like I felt I could have taken better care of my friend; and I needed to be around people that I love and share my process just like I felt that I should have been there for my friend. Over time, what this did for me is release the responsibility I felt for my friend’s death and helped me talk about the challenges of my experience. After some time I found that I could talk more about the joy of my relationship because I had released the burden of guilt and fully honored the place that my loved one had occupied in my heart.
Grief takes us through the unthinkable, into a future that feels incomprehensible, and often times one that we do not want. Grief teaches us about acceptance and the strength of our own heart to bear the unthinkable and make it through the other side. Knowing that everything that we experience in relation to grief is a part of the process can make us feel that things will be ok and that we are healing. Guilt and shame take us to acceptance and strength and in the end, will result in remembering the positive and loving space that someone occupies in our heart.