You’re normal – and even healthy – if you’re ready to let go of the past, but you feel guilty for moving on. These tips will help you find courage, strength, and freedom to walk into a new stage of life!
“Letting go means something has to open in your head and in your heart, but that shift, that easing, comes up against our own invisible, often implacable resistance,” writes Judith Sills, PhD in “Let It Go” (Psychology Today magazine, November/December 2014). “A great deal of that resistance comes from the great human reluctance to change. Even change for the better is still changed, often initially dreaded and avoided. We are creatures of habit and inertia…It is one of the great marvels of clinical observation how much discomfort people can tolerate before they acknowledge the need for change. And change is always uncomfortable, at least at first.”
You’re moving on, which means you’re letting go of a past relationship, person, place, job, or even a beloved pet. Maybe your relationship ended because of a sudden death or unexpected divorce; maybe you had to leave a person, home, or job that you loved but knew you needed to end.
Now you’re ready to let go, but you feel guilty. Take heart! You will move through this, you will work through your feelings of guilt, and you will find the freedom you need to heal and be happy again.
How to Stop Feeling Guilty for Moving On
Since there are never any “quick tips” or “easy fixes” for something as meaningful as getting emotionally and spiritually healthy, I can’t offer you guarantees of instant success. Finding true freedom and healing means you need to take time to stop, think, and dig into your own heart and soul.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
1. Identify why you feel guilty for moving on
Often, people who are grieving feel guilty for healing, living, loving, and laughing again. Different people have different reasons for feeling bad. Some people feel like they’re betraying a loved one if they feel happy again, while others promised they’d love a partner forever…and if they feel good after that relationship is over, they feel guilty and ashamed because they “should” be sad and grieving the past.
What about you – why do you feel guilty for moving on after a breakup, divorce, or death? You’ll find the best tip on how to stop feeling guilty in the reason for your guilt. For example, if you feel guilty because you broke up with a partner or left your marriage, then resolving your guilty feelings will be much different than if your spouse died and you feel relieved, free, or healthier alone. Or maybe you’ve found a new relationship, a new person who you truly enjoy being with…and you feel like you’re betraying your lost partner because you’re starting a life with someone new.
2. Make amends, if you need to
Do you feel the need to apologize for the way you acted in — or the way you ended — a relationship? Perhaps you need to tie up those loose ends by saying sorry. Making amends can help you stop feeling guilty for moving on by bringing forgiveness, resolution, and peace to a past relationship. Making amends will also help you sleep better at night, by freeing your conscience from the dark shadows of guilt and shame.
“Making amends generally involves reaching out to someone, face to face or in writing, and expressing your remorse,” writes Dr Sills in Let It Go. “If you feel that you did harm to someone in a past relationship, then articulate clearly the harm you did. Give the other person a chance to express his or her point of view, anger, or past pain.”
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Dr Sills adds that the other person’s perspective may be difficult for you to hear, but it is a necessary component of making amends. This tip on how to stop feeling guilty for moving on requires you to humbly, sincerely, and honestly acknowledge their feelings. Apologize for letting them down. Authentically express your remorse, from your heart. You might say, “I want you to know that I understand how I hurt you, and I’m so very sorry for the pain I caused.”
3. Realize that letting go of your guilt is a daily choice
Every day — perhaps several times a day — you must choose to let go of the guilt you feel. You are moving on because it’s time, because it’s healthy and natural to start a new life, and because you are ready.
It’s not a one-time thing, your decision to learn how to stop feeling guilty for moving on. It’s like bathing: it’s a daily action that has to be repeated because life and humans are messy. But unlike bathing, you will eventually find yourself feeling less and less guilty. You’ll forgive yourself if you need to. You’ll change how you see yourself and the past, and you’ll embrace the present and the future. If you keep choosing forgiveness and acceptance, you will stop feeling guilty for moving on. The secret is that you need to keep choosing your path, every day.
Do you feel emotionally attached – or even enmeshed – to someone you need to let go of? Read How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About.
4. Rewrite your narrative – tell yourself a new story
What are you telling yourself about moving on from a past relationship, mistake, failure, or regret? This is important, because you believe what you tell yourself. Don’t believe everything you think.
If you tell yourself that you’re bad or wrong because you want to move on, guess what? You’ll stay stuck in the past. But if you evaluate what you’re telling yourself (your narrative or story) and change your perspective, then you’ll learn how to stop feeling guilty. You’ll move into the future with a fresh perspective and a lighthearted spirit.
“One powerful strategy for easing the pain of the past is to rewrite key aspects of the story from a more balanced, empathetic perspective,” writes Dr Sills in Let It Go. “A healthy rewrite makes you less victimized, less devastated, less lost than the one you told yourself at the time of the original injury. Rewrites do not attempt to change the facts of the narrative. They simply see those facts through more mature, more empathetic, less injured eyes. Those eyes help you let go.”
5. Learn how other people move on and deal with guilty feelings
“Getting unstuck requires being truthful with yourself about how you feel – still angry, sad, or anxious, even though you wish you weren’t – but holding out the possibility that someday you might feel better,” writes Dr Sills.
Here’s how I did it: for years, I blamed myself for my sister’s choice to cut me out of her life. She decided to end our relationship and said she just didn’t want to have any contact with me at all anymore. She couldn’t tell me why because she didn’t have a firm reason. So, I blamed myself. For years I struggled with guilt, shame, and self-hatred….until one day I realized that her decision to end our relationship had nothing to do with me. It was about her. The choice was hers. I could choose to either keep feeling guilty for whatever “wrong” things I did, or I could just move on.
Guess what I chose? To Blossom into who God created me to be, and move on without feeling guilty, ashamed, or bad about myself. And I stopped hiding behind my guilt and shame. I moved on by facing my painful secrets and using my energy for different, healthier, things.
6. Look up for help, hope, and healing
How’s your relationship with God? Tell me what you believe about Jesus, or how you perceive the Holy Spirit to be working in your life. Better yet, talk to God! Tell HIM what you believe about Him, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
The only permanent and meaningful way to change your life is by having a personal relationship with God. He created you, He loves you deeply, and He knows you inside and out. Jesus died so you could feel God’s presence whenever you stop and listen. If you really want to learn how to stop feeling guilty for moving on, then your best bet is to examine your faith. It’s impossible to be truly free, peaceful, and full of joy if you don’t know Jesus.
If you’re involved with someone new, read How to Stop Feeling Guilty When You’re Starting a New Relationship.
Your thoughts – good and bad, big or little – are welcome below. Tell me your story, share your perspective on God, share your ideas about how to stop feeling guilty for moving on. I don’t give advice, but you may find freedom and strength in your writing.
Take heart, for you WILL move forward into a new and Blossomy life! Hold on to your hope, cling tight to your faith, and accept God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. Blow Jesus a kiss!
Need marriage help? Get free relationship advice from Marriage Coach Mort Fertel.
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