My response: This feeling of guilt in the aftermath of significant loss is so common as to be universal. Much has been written about why we experience it and what we can do to cope with it. (See, for example, Grief and the Burden of Guilt.)
Some authors make the distinction between guilt and regret, noting that guilt is the feeling we have when our conscience is violated, while regret is the feeling of sadness that results when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped. Guilt implies that we are at fault for something we’ve done or failed to do; regret is a reflection of our humanness.
As imperfect human beings, we are limited in our capacities ~ after all, there is only so much anyone can do in the face of insurmountable odds. We cannot be held accountable for circumstances beyond our control or for consequences we cannot foresee. At some point we must forgive ourselves for our human imperfections.
In his beautiful book, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss, author Jerry Sittser observes that, if we give in to those feelings of guilt and regret, we are in danger of what he calls the death of the spirit:
See also Irene Kendig’s helpful article on the Open to Hope Web site, How to Release Regret.
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Related Articles and Resources:
- Why Regret Can Be Harder to Handle Than Grief
- If You Don't Understand These 5 Things Early, You'll Probably Lead a Regretful Life by Awolu Faith
- Regret: It's Too Late Now, Or Is It? by Elaine Mansfield
- Guilt and Shame: An Unacceptable Combination by Tim Lawrence
- Welcoming Compassion for The Self by Paul Dunion, EdD
- Let It Go by Richard Paul Evans
- Grief and The Burden of Guilt by Marty Tousley
- Guilt In The Wake Of A Parent's Death by Marty Tousley
- Getting Through What You Can't Get Over by Alexa Keating
- How Regrets Can Shape You by Bronnie Ware
- Grief and Shame: An Unacceptable Combination by Tim Lawrence
- 5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt by John Grohol, PsyD
- Love Your Regret: A Journaling Exercise by Eleanor, blogging at What's Your Grief?
- Managing Guilt by Vicki Ratner, MD
- Healing Guilt and Regret DVD featuring Alan Pedersen
- A Psychologist's Perspective on Guilt vs Regret by Lisa Bonchek Adams
- Coping with Guilt During Bereavement with Dr. Bob Baugher (Featured Webinar from The Compassionate Friends)
- 5 Ways to Overcome Mid-Life Regret by Anne-Marie Botek
- Regrets, I've Had a Few by Lauren Thaler Kahn
- Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Elisha Goldstein, PhD
- Coping with Guilt as a Caregiver by Janna Kontz
- Guilt by Barbara Karnes