You’re normal if you feel guilty after the loss of your mother. Guilt is a common and painful part of grieving when a mom dies. These ideas for dealing with guilt after your mother’s death will help you grieve and heal.
“Sometimes the hardest part of grief is guilt,” writes Margaret Brownley in Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing. “We obsess over what we did or didn’t do, the missed opportunities to say ‘I love you,’ and the times we lashed out in anger and impatience.”
Feelings of guilt can get in the way of healthy grieving in general — especially if you’re responsible for a vulnerable loved one. For example, dealing with guilt when your dog dies is one of my most popular articles. But when your mom dies you might feel even worse and guiltier because she gave you life. She took care of you when you were a baby and loved you as you grew up. It’s normal and even healthy to feel guilty after your mom dies, especially if you didn’t treat her well when she was alive. Take heart, for help is here!
In this article, I’ll share three tips for healing and dealing with guilty feelings when you lose your mother.
I don’t know exactly how you feel — or why you’re struggling with guilt over your mom’s death — but I know how much guilt and shame I felt after my grandmother died. My grandma passed away alone in her apartment 20 years ago, and I still feel guilt and shame when I recall certain conversations and experiences we had. I have a lot of regret about our relationship, and it’s too late.
If you’re like me, your guilt may never completely disappear. This is actually a good thing because it’ll help you remember to treat your loved ones with kindness, love and gentleness when they’re alive! And you can still heal and learn how to forgive yourself for not doing more.
3 Ideas for Healing the Guilt When You Lose Your Mom
“Guilt complicates and prolongs the grieving process by preventing the emotional and spiritual growth necessary for recovery,” writes Brownley in Grieving God’s Way. “Self-condemnation and regret can all too often lead to depression or even thoughts of self-harm.”
1. Understand where your guilt comes from
You feel guilty because your conscience is telling you that you could’ve been more loving, kind and supportive of your mom. Guilt comes from the good part of you, the part that knows you violated your own standards. You disappointed yourself. Maybe you even disappointed your mother. I know I disappointed my grandma, even though she died without ever telling me that I hurt her. I know I did, though.
When you accept that your guilty feelings arise from a place of goodness within you, your ability to heal grows. You aren’t a bad person. You may have made a bad choice or poor decision, but you were acting out of your thoughts and feelings. You did or said something to your mom because of what you knew and believed at the time. Accepting yourself — that you did the best you could — will help you heal the guilt when your mom dies.
2. Identify the reason you feel guilty after your mom’s death
Maybe you wish you’d been more forgiving, gentle or kind. That’s what I wished after I lost my grandma. Maybe you could’ve been more understanding and patient, kinder or more generous with your life. Maybe you wish you had another chance to say “I love you” to your mom before her death. Maybe you weren’t there when your mother died, and you regret not seeing her at the end.
Even if your mom was difficult (or one of the most controlling parents in the world!), you may regret how you responded to her. One of the most important steps to healing guilty feelings when your mom dies is to be honest with yourself. Why do you feel guilty? What do you wish you would’ve done different?
3. Work through your feelings of guilt in writing
If you keep reciting and ruminating in your head, you won’t heal the guilt. Guilty thoughts will expand and multiply in our heads if we don’t get them out.
Write what happened. Take a pen and paper — or get out your Blossom Journal — and write down your reasons for feeling guilty. What did you say or do to your mom? Why do you feel so guilty? Be honest; write out the whole story. If you feel guilty about your mother’s death, tell her that you’re sorry. If you feel angry that she’s the cause of your guilt and shame, tell her that too!
Talk to your mom. Write your mother a love letter that tells her how much you miss her and how bad you feel about what did or didn’t happen. Tell your mom how guilty you feel and how much you miss her now that she’s gone…and know that she is reading every word over your shoulder. She loves you more than ever before, and she forgives you.
Our theme on She Blossoms this week is acceptance. Accepting and facing your guilt will help you heal the grief of your mom’s death. It’s painful to work through guilty feelings and grieve, but it’s healthy in the long run. Expressing and working through your guilt will help you heal and move through the grieving process of your mother’s death.
Help grieving your mother’s death
In It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, therapist Megan Devine offers a profound approach to grieving.
In this book, Megan shares what it was like to witness the accidental drowning of her beloved husband. She doesn’t talk specifically about healing guilt when your mom dies, but she offers deep insight about the unspoken truths of loss, love, and healing.
Through stories, research, life tips, and creative and mindfulness-based practices, Megan offers a unique guide through the grieving process. Whether it’s our moms, grandmothers or partners…we all have to grieve the loss of someone we love. This book offers hope, help and healing.
Margaret Brownley’s Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing offers insight into healing our grieving body, soul, heart, and spirit. Infused with scriptures and inspirational haiku by Diantha Ain, this book will help you grieve your mom’s death with God’s perspective. Grieving God’s way requires us to trust that He will lead us through the darkness, heal our pain, take away our weariness, and fill our hearts with hope, peace, and new purpose.
Your thoughts and stories about your mom – and your struggle with guilt after her death – are welcome in the comments section below. Writing your memories won’t just help you heal, it’ll memorialize your mother forever in our little She Blossoms garden 🙂
I read every comment, but don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk.