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How to Deal With Guilt After Your Mom Dies

When you’re learning how to deal with guilt after your mom dies, remember that she couldn’t love you any more than she did when she died. You weren’t a perfect daughter, she wasn’t a perfect mother, and you didn’t have a perfect mother-daughter relationship. But you had each other…and that has to be good enough.

Dealing with guilty feelings after your mother’s death is a normal part of the grieving process. “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.”

Learning how to deal with guilt after your mom dies is a process that takes time. Remember that you’re also grieving a huge loss in your life – your mom knew and loved you like nobody else on earth ever could. This makes your guilt worse because you know you can never repay your mother for the love, kindness, care and support she gave you. Your mom took care of you when you were a tiny, helpless baby and loved you as you grew up.


Mothers (and fathers!) make sacrifice after sacrifice for their children; feeling guilty after a parent dies is part of grieving their death. No matter where you were or how your mother died, feeling guilty is natural because of how much you loved each other. But, getting stuck in guilt and shame is not natural or healthy.

3 Ways to Deal With Guilt After Your Mom Dies

I don’t know why you’re struggling with guilt or how your mom died, but I remember feeling constantly guilty and ashamed after my grandmother died. She was like a mom to me; she died alone in her apartment 20 years ago. Now, I no longer feel guilty or ashamed when I remember certain conversations and experiences — but it took a long time to heal.

You, too, will heal from the guilt you feel over your mom’s death. You can work through your guilty feelings, grieve how you wish things could have been, and grow healthier and stronger. And if you follow Jesus Christ, you’ll find forgiveness and healing than you could ever imagine.

1. Understand why people feel guilty

How to Deal With Guilt After Your Mom Dies
Dealing With Guilt After Your Mom Dies

“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.”

You feel guilty because your conscience is telling you that you could or should have 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.

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. Face the specific reason you feel guilty about your mom

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 ways to heal guilt when your mom dies is to be honest. What actions or thoughts are underlying your guilty feelings? What do you wish you would have done differently before your mom died? If you have no answers, read How to Stop Feeling Guilty for No Reason.

3. Write about your mom’s death and your guilty feelings

Writing can help you stop obsessing, ruminating, and reciting the same guilty feelings over and over. Writing everything down – with a pen and paper, no matter how difficult or painful it feels – is a healthy way to face and work through feelings of guilt. Your mom’s death may be the most painful experience of your life; writing can help you process your feelings and express your thoughts.

Write it down. Go somewhere private, schedule 15 or 30 minutes, and put everything else aside. Just write honestly. What did you say or do to your mom? Why do you feel so guilty? What do you already know about how to deal with guilty feelings after your mom dies? Be honest; write the whole story. Tell your mom that you’re sorry. Allow feelings of anger, shame, embarrassment, confusion or regret to flow through you onto the paper.

Talk to your mom. Write your mother a 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. Believe that she hears you. Your mom is reading every word over your shoulder. She loves you more than ever before, and she forgives you.

Help grieving your mother’s death

Healing Guilt When Your Mom Dies

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.

Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies

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. Learning how to grieve with hope and faith will help you deal with and heal the guilt you feel.

Read through the comments below – you may find it helpful to learn how others deal with guilty feelings. Feel free to share thoughts and stories about how your mom died, why you feel so guilty, and what you wish was different.

I’m sorry you lost your mom.

With sympathy,

Laurie

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21 thoughts on “How to Deal With Guilt After Your Mom Dies”

  1. My mom died Dec 8 2018,
    She was an alcoholic, but only when I turned 26, I’m 49.
    She was a very good mother, though strict , and maybe not as cuddly now that I think about it.
    She had fibromyalgia, went though a divorce , and was betrayed by infidelity.
    Then she pushed all of us children away. I tried everything I could to get her to stop drinking. She lived in many different areas, got kicked out of assisted living twice, my aunt couldn’t take it anymore, and later my sister. She moved home and lived with me for several months but she kept doing things that made her fall. I got so angry. I could not be awake or at home 24 hours a day, so the wall got higher and I said mean things, and she fell so many times bleeding from her head and I could not lift her, I suffer from fibromyalgia, depression and fatigue. She had been in the hospital so many times. I didn’t realize this would be a time that she would not come home. Actually she moved into an apartment with someone to look after her 24 hours a day, this was very expensive. But the day before she died is when I realized she was going to die and she was suffering so terribly. When she moved into the apartment I didn’t visit her because I would get such anxiety. But now, and I knew this would happen, but I would do anything To be able to say goodbye. She knows I loved her, but she would say that I didn’t. My heart is in 1 million pieces

  2. Clare she loved you … I tease my kids about this all the time..they are in different time zones…my sister was too worn out to see my mom…when mom was with me she was full of love for my sister…..when my sister walked in…the guilt trip started….ask your brother….

  3. My Mum died on April 2, 2019. I live in Canada and she lived in the U.K., something that I always felt guilty about as she was always telling me how she wished I lived closer like her friends daughters. I had been visiting her for a week when she had a fall the day before I was due to leave. My brother and I took her to the hospital where they found out she had pneumonia and heart failure. I changed my flight and fully expected her to get better though knew her recovery would probably be slow due to her age (93). Mum made some comments in the first few days in the hospital about it was a good thing my brother wasn’t going to abandon her like I was. I was hurt and upset by this and got impatient with her. When she could hardly speak I told her there was nothing wrong with her voice so come on, speak up, then it turned out the oxygen she was on had not been humidified so her mouth and vocal cords were all dried out. We kept expecting Mum to improve, but she did not respond to the antibiotics and the infection got worse. She wouldn’t eat or drink and stopped responding to us. After almost a week, the doctors said that they were going to stop treatment and just keep her comfortable. There were a couple of days where she was fighting to take the oxygen mask off and delirious. I just wanted it to be over. I feel I should have fought more for her. My brother and I were not there when she died. We had left about an hour before. The nurses said that sometimes people wait until their loved ones leave to die but Mum always said she was frightened of dying alone and I feel terrible that I was not there. We were not a family who says “I love you” to each other but I wanted to tell her and I didn’t. I hope she knew that I did. I always felt that I was not the daughter my mother wanted me to be. The guilt is eating me up.

  4. I’m not sure why I didn’t include this in my blog post, but my guilty feelings were alleviated – healed – by my growing awareness of God’s love. It must be because I originally wrote this article a year ago, and now feel the power of the Father’s love so much more strongly. Jesus has changed my identity. Believing, accepting, and truly knowing in the deepest part of myself that I’m a child of God has changed everything — including whatever guilt I felt in the past.

    It sounds corny, religious, and maybe even offensive…but the truth is that knowing God really does change everything. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to share more.

  5. I’ve done a lot of soul searching particularly seeing this as I, a mom, would see my daughter. I know I have infinite forgiveness for my daughter…I learned from my mom and now know she had an infinite capacity to forgive me in the moment. I think this is true for all moms, and if they could they would want us to focus on the wonderful memories and not the regrets. I just wanted to share.

  6. My mom just passed away May 25th. Something in her breathing changed that last night and I thought “please don’t let this be the end”, but instead of sitting up with her I let a friend sit with her so I could get some sleep. She died a couple of hours after I went to bed. I feel guilty that I wasn’t there, holding her hand, giving her one last hug. Being so focused on taking care of her that I wasn’t just with her. Being too busy to play one more game of scrabble, being so concerned about her health that I wouldn’t let her do anything, making her feel useless. Instead of making things easier for her I made her feel unnecessary. I just want to apologize and tell her how very necessary and important she was and still is in my life. I did so many things wrong. I feel she left because I didn’t need her anymore. I was trying so hard to take care of her that I didn’t love her. How do I get over all that?

  7. My mother passed away on May 16, 2019. It started as breast cancer about 16 months ago and then 3 months ago a PET scan showed it in the lung, bone and liver. She didnt have a PET scan for over a year. I feel horribly guilty because I also think I should have taken her to a better hospital from the beginning. I dont think she had the best care especially the last two days of her life. I dont think her oncologist did the right thing. She died two weeks ago of what appeared to be an infection and kidney failure, not the cancer. I cant stop thinking about how she trusted me to get her the best care.

  8. My mother was pronounced dead at 2:10 am on May 11. She suffered from complications from a tramautic brain injury 5 months earlier. We called her recovery a Christmas miracle. She was in and out of hospitals and rehabs, and fought to recover but had psychosis, and physical challenges. I spent countless hours with her in these facilities. I brought her to live with me for two weeks, but she became out of control. After a hospital stay to calm her, we moved her to a memory care facility. They requested we limit visits the first two weeks. It was horrible for my mother. She’s felt abandoned at her weakest. At the end of the two weeks, she was not eating and we took her to the hospital. She would tell staff I didn’t love her. She kept telling me she was dying, I thought it was the psychosis, and she was ok. I told her death is in god’s hands. She died. Her heart stopped. I told her I loved her as she was going, but i just feel it was too late and not enough. I feel in her struggles, I was there, but I failed her in the end.

  9. My mom died in April of 2018. Not a day goes by that I do not feel deep, paralyzing guilt. 5 years before she passed, she sold her house and gave up her life she had back home and moved across the country to CA to be close to me (I’m an only child) and my husband and son. She moved a few months after we bought our house and a few months before my son was born. She rented an apartment close to us and we integrated her into our lives as much as possible. She always helped with our son and we invited her to almost every social event with our friends and took her on vacation with us. We really saw her a lot but I felt so guilty for any day I did not spend with her. I always felt caught in the middle of wanting alone time with my family and making sure she didn’t feel left out or alone. I imagine her sitting in her apartment on those days alone with no one to talk to. She was on her own for years before as my dad passed a long time ago but she had a large circle of friends and was very active back home. She took up some activities here and was at our house at least 3-4 times per week but I think being in a new state at an older age was hard for her. Although I saw her a lot, I sometimes feel that when I created healthy boundaries that she was hurt or felt I was pushing her away. I feel that i really messed up with how I handled the boundaries. There was also a lot of tension between her and my husband and I was often overwhelmed by that and would often be on edge because of it. In hindsight I wish she would have lived with us but I don’t think my husband wanted that. I really regret not pushing for that. I also regret the times I could have been more helpful but geht overwhelmed by taking care of a little one and hubby. The other major guilt I feel is when she became ill. She had overcome so many serious illnesses in her life that I thought she would beat the last one. She was always so strong. She was staying with us during those final weeks and i was so naive to have out of town guests at that time. They didn’t stay with us but i did leave a couple of times to do things with them while my mom was resting at home. She was not bed ridden and I had no idea she would die soon but she had severe heart problems. I hate myself for spending time with my visitors while I could have talked to my mom instead. At the time I thought she was ok but now I feel that was really wrong of me to see them. She was sleeping a lot and I would check in her but I should have told them not to come. Anyway a few days after thy left she ended up dying suddenly in front of me and my son at home and I never had closure. She was supposed to have surgery one week later. No chance to talk about our feelings or for me to apologize for anything. I regret not spending precious time with her toward the end. It’s soul crushing.

  10. My Mother died in July of 2017. My mom was a single mother who could never find happiness., She went through several relationships when I was a child. Many just for financial reasons. I was the oldest and was responsible for my sister while my mom was work. That put a strain on my relationship with my sister so we were not very close when we were older. In High school I had to go to work to help my Mom pay bills. When I moved out and got married I knew she was very unhappy. I think she suffered from empty nest syndrome. She became depressed and did several destructive things that I had to clean up for her. I really got weary of having to be the responsible one and I was angry with her. As she got older I did a lot to help her with her daily living. She was a smoker for years, took a lot of pain medicine and harldy got out of bed. I would ask her to lunch but she would always back out. For the most part I would be glad she backed out because I knew all she would do was complain and only talk about negative things. Whenever I would try to get her to do something to help herself she would back out or expect me to do everything. Despite the fact that I had a husband, son and a job. It made me angry that she was home all day and did not want to do anything. I am sure she was depressed and could not help how she felt. She had many health issues that I could not fix but the thing that I feel so guilty for is that she was diagnosed with a Cardiac issue.which the doctor was watching. She felt like they did not want to do anything because she was “poor”. So she decided not to go back to the doctor. I did not try to convince her to change her mind. I never wanted anything to happen to her but at this point I just had given up. I was embarrassed of her because she was so bitter that she would be mean to people when we would go places over things they had not control over. She did not seem to care if she embarrassed me. I think that she felt she should be able to do anything and I be okay with it because she was my Mother. That made me so angry because I would try to do everything I could for her. She never seemed to appreciate anything. It has been almost 2 years since she died and some days I am still crippled by my guilt and grief. I feel like a horrible person. We do not know exactly what she died from because she died at home on the weekend that I was at work. I took her to the store on Thursday had to work Frid. Sat and Sun. and when I went to check on her Monday she had died that weekend. So I feel that if I had cared enough to push her to go back to the Doctor she would still be alive. When she first died I felt like I had killed her. Several times I considered hurting myself to stop the pain. I have alway been ” the fixer” so it is haunting me that I can not fix this. I pray every day that God will help me with my broken heart. I would never have let her down on purpose. I am writing this here in hopes that it will help me with my healing journey.

  11. My mom has mental health issues too — she’s been schizophrenic my whole life. Now she’s almost 80, and lives in a group home for seniors with mental health struggles. We talk every week. It’s not easy, that’s for sure! My sister hasn’t talked to my mom (or me) for about 15 years now. My mom asks about her every week, but I always say the same thing: I haven’t heard from my sister and I don’t think she’s interested in having a relationship with us.

    I actually have more guilty feelings about my grandmother than my mom! My grandma died almost 20 years ago, and I feel terrible about how badly I treated her. I was harsh, impatient, and inconsiderate. But I know my grandma was a Christian and I believe I’ll meet her again in the new heaven and earth. I believe our relationship will be renewed and that she’s forgiven me. I have no reason to feel guilty for anything.

    For you, I pray for healing of the guilty feelings. Your mom’s death was so difficult, and it still echoes in your life today. I pray that you’ll find healthy ways to deal with the guilt you feel and forgive yourself if you need to. I pray that you feel the loving, healing touch of God on your heart and spirit, and that you come to a place of peace and even joy. May you be blessed and held close by the Father in Heaven who created you and loves you deeply.

    With His love,
    Laurie

  12. My mum died 11 years ago on Wednesday – i suffer from guilt every day and this is impacting on my life as i drink to hide away from my guilt. My mum has mental health issues and her first attempt of suicide was when i was 10 – for the next 20 years my mum was in and out of Mental hospitals – i was and still am angry with her and never got the chance to tell her this – i k ow it was not her fault but as a child it’s very hard to understand why your mum would rather not be with you. My dad was there for us and he passed 3 years this June I was utterly shattered when my red died as he was the one that was there for us. Thanks for reading.

  13. Writing a letter to my Mom is a great idea. Something I will definitely try. For my Mom and for myself. I will also share this article on Facebook. Some of my friends and family may find it beneficial.

  14. A friend told me yesterday that she wasn’t there when her mom died, and she felt terribly guilty for three years. Then, at a grief support group, she learned that some people can’t or won’t die while their loved ones are present. They can’t let go because they know their loved one will be struck with grief and pain.

    If you feel guilty after your mother’s death because you weren’t there when she died, consider the idea that she may not have been able to pass in her daughter’s presence. She loved you dearly, with her whole heart and soul, and she may not have been able to leave this world with you there.

    With love,
    Laurie

  15. 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.

  16. 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…

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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