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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.