Healing Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies

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

Healing Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies

Healing Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies

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.

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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

Healing Guilt When Your Mom DiesIn 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.

Guilty Feelings When Your Mom DiesMargaret 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.


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7 thoughts on “Healing Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies

  • faiq

    My mother is at last stage of breast cancer, when her cancer was diagnosed back in 2016, I did not have much money to take her to better oncologist….Now I feel guilty that, If I could take her to a better hospital she could be alive and with me…She trusted me for her life but I did not rose up to the occasion…

    • Claire Thomas

      It’s been about a year and 4 months since my mum passed away. She wss diagnosed with terminal cancer and poorley for around 9 months before she died at age 50. I can’t help but feel guilty for still being here when her life was cut short and she wasn’t even given a chance to fight it. It was too far spread and she was straight away put into palliative care. I remember when she first got poorley and the docs thought she just had kidney stones but said they needed to do further tests. I remember her words saying “I won’t be that unlucky” thinking she wouldn’t have cancer. I remember saying she would be fine. I have memories of the doctors coming over and her crying in my arms saying how much she loved her family when she was told she was dying. I can’t remove this guilt I have for life because she more than anyone should still be here enjoying it. Nothing has been the same since she left and I miss her so much it physically hurts. I dont see why I should get to enjoy all the things i know my mum would have loved. She should be here enjoying them aswell. I feel guilt for not having a family while she was alive, not getting married or settling down. I feel guilty that I didn’t do enough mother daughter things with her because I took for granted we would have all the time in the world. I was upstairs asleep when she passed away. Although i had been with her holding her hand at the end stages I was not with her at the point she took her last breath, I was not there. I hope she wasn’t scared or felt alone. I hope she wasnt looking around the room. I just don’t know how to live on without her here. It’s eating me up inside everyday.

  • Hilary kirby

    I feel guilty that I was not with my mum when she died. My sister myself my daughter and nephew had been with my mum through the day for three days but we went home in the evenings. My mum died at 315 in the morning. I feel guilty I did not stay that last day. We all kissed my mum and told her we loved her but I still can’t stop feeling guilty for not staying through the night. I love you mum and I miss you so much xxxxx

  • B

    My mother just passed away Saturday – I live 1000 miles away. Although she was chronically ill, her death was sudden and at home. I feel like I am drowning in guilt – my brother, who lived and cared for my mother but has never been independent (he is 36) is in the state taking care of logistical issues, but as the oldest child I feel guilty for not being there with her, not being more patient, not making the trip now (although there is nothing to do at the moment). life was not easy growing up – my father was abusive and left my mother suddenly after 30 years of marriage, my mother enabled his abuse and became co-dependent upon my brother after he left. I distanced myself emotionally – mostly to protect myself but also to not face the reality of their situation. My uncle and brother and I have decided to cremate the remains and have a graveside ceremony and memorial in the summer – I feel like I am failing her another time. She never felt good enough or that people liked her, she was very self-depreciating, and I feel that delaying the memorial is just another instance of this. My faith tells me that she is in the arms of the Father, but my heart is broken – I am having horrible guilt about her body being alone, the process of cremation. I don’t feel like I can ever get over this.

  • Sarah

    My mother died of cancer. She was 63.
    I kept avoiding the palliative care unit in her final weeks.
    I didn’t look at her in the eyes once. I didn’t have a conversation about her dying. I abandoned her when she most needed me. I was her only child. She died alone.
    She was a wonderful mum. She always put me first. I just couldn’t bear to watch her die.
    I hate myself for it today and can’t forgive myself.

    • Laurie Post author

      Dear Sarah,
      I am so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine the grief and pain you must feel. Your mother’s death is so sad, and the guilt you feel must feel unbearable at times. She loved you with all her heart…and she knows how terrible you feel. She loves you still; her spirit lives on in your heart, soul, and even your cells. Your mother will always be part of you and you will always be part of her. Her death is terrible, but it doesn’t erase the love you and she shared.

      One of my friends couldn’t be there when her mother died. Her dad was there, though, and he said her mom wouldn’t have wanted her there. Her mother didn’t want her daughter to see her in such pain, and didn’t want her to suffer by watching her die. So, while my friend feels bad, sad and guilty that she wasn’t there for her mom’s death…she also believes her mom wanted it to happen the way it did.

      If you could go back in time, Sarah, maybe you would choose to be there for your mom. But maybe there’s a reason you couldn’t be there for her…a reason that you don’t understand right now. Maybe, for some strange reason, your mom died the way she did because it was the way she was meant to go. And maybe your experience will affect you and other people in profound and meaningful ways.

      I pray that you find forgiveness, peace, and healing. May God bring you through the pain and suffering; may He help you transcend the guilt and grief. May your heart and spirit heal…and may you know deep in your soul that your mother loves you very much. She forgives you because she knows you did the best you could. Your mom knows how much you love her, and how painful her death is for you. And she loves you more than you know. She wants you to forgive yourself. You mom doesn’t want you to hate yourself, to keep struggling with guilty feelings. She has moved past the pain of death to a beautiful, soft, free world…and she wants you, too, to be free. I pray that you open your heart to Jesus and allow God’s healing love to fill your spirit. I pray for freedom and healing, for an indescribable sense of peace and joy to fill your heart. May you accept forgiveness and move forward with a light heart and joyful spirit. Amen, amen, and amen.

      With His love,

  • Laurie Post author

    Here’s what one of my “She Blossoms” readers shared today, in our Facebook Group – it was written by Debbie Kay of Hope for the Broken Hearted:

    Help us to let go of the “what ifs”, the “if onlys”, the regrets, the failures, the disappointments, the heartaches…all the things that we can’t change…help us not to waste another day beating ourselves up emotionally, mentally, spiritually…we can’t change the past, but things are not wasted if we can learn from them…help us to extract the lessons from the failures, regrets and pain…help us harvest what we can and let go of the rest so we can make the most of this day and all the days to come…help us to see all we have been through with your eyes…you know what we lack, what will motivate us, what will heal us, how to guide us…we ask for your help to live victoriously, to live confidently as your children, to enjoy the freedom you bought for us, to be full of your peace and aware of our blessings…

    Help us to make the most of this day and all the days we have left…help us to take control of what we can, do the best that we can and then leave the rest up to you…help us to be still at your feet and find rest in your presence…we surrender all that we are and all that we hope to be and ask for your will, not ours to be done. In the name of Jesus we ask these things. Amen

    – by Debbie Kay, Hope for the Broken Hearted