CALL (732) 741-1333 | Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD, Monmouth County Therapy & Counseling - 23 White Street, Shrewsbury, NJ 07702

Angela couldn’t “let it go,” like her family kept telling her.

She thought about her brother’s death all the time.

She thought about how much she left unsaid and things she shouldn’t have said.

She lamented her reluctance to go to the hospital or make amends for the previous years of conflict between them. Her heart ached and her mind kept replaying a million aspects of her loss.

Angela was exhausted by the guilt and regret she was carrying.

She wondered if letting it go was even possible.

How could she move on if her brother was no longer here to let her off the hook.

How would she work through her brother’s loss, if he could never forgive her?

Angela needs to work her way toward self-forgiveness.

Maybe you do too.

If you are struggling with the loss of someone dear, you may need to learn how to shift your inner focus. With help and support you can build  emotional tools, and move beyond the constant rehashing of all your perceived mistakes.

Maybe it’s time to let go of punishing yourself.

Maybe it’s OK to give yourself permission to move forward.

Instead of entrenching yourself in self blame ,consider finding ways to show yourself the love, compassion, and grace you would offer a grieving friend. Here’ s how to begin:

  1. Don’t hide.

Don’t bury your feelings or your need for relief. Both are totally normal and totally okay. Try to be mindful and aware of what you’re feeling. Emotional awareness is a good thing, not a judgmental thing.

Resist the urge to slap feelings away or judge yourself harshly for feeling what you feel. Your grief is your own and completely permissible. Just be careful to look at the whole story, not just your regrets. Feel and remember the good times as well as the bad.

  1. Write it all down.

Looking at the full picture of your relationship or situation helps you see yourself accurately in the context of the loss and events surrounding the loss. Chances are, there was a lot  more going than what you didn’t do. Take a look at what you did right too. Consider your contributions and intentions, even if they didn’t turn out as you hoped.

Journal, write a letter, detail what you’ve learned, what still hurts, and how you’ve grown. Gaining some perspective, and specifically determining what it is you feel guilty about, will enable a more purposeful process toward self-forgiveness.

  1. Identify shame and blame.

Do you feel bad about your decisions? Or do you feel like a bad person? Shame makes self-forgiveness nearly impossible. People make mistakes, sometimes we have time to fix them. When we don’t get that time, it’s easy to slip into a mindset that tells us only a bad person could have waited too long, ended things poorly, or acted regrettably given an unexpected or tragic turn of events.

It is vital to recognize that whether you are actually contributed to the unfortunate circumstances of your loss or not, living in perpetual shame is neither necessary nor helpful.. Releasing shame isn’t excusing yourself for past mistakes. Self-forgiveness allows space for your humanness.

Now is the time to concentrate instead on honoring the lost person, relationship, or situation by living well and with more intention.

  1. Honor and make amends.

You may find self-forgiveness is easier if you can find symbolic resolution. Take time and make space for ceremony and sharing with loved ones or privately with your therapist. This actually gives a voice and dedicated period of time for remembrance and reflection. Instead of perpetual pain, you are marking your desire to acknowledge the suffering. And your willingness to do what you can to finally, and respectfully, move forward.

Forgiving yourself is often the hardest part of a tough loss.

However, there is comfort available to you when you finally take action.

Not because you should, or others implore you to do it.

But, choosing self -forgiveness because you are ready honors the lost person, relationship, or dream. And it reminds you that you are still worthy of honor and inner peace too.

If you find yourself struggling with these issues, reach out and contact me. I have helped many people who are struggling with grief and loss. Together we can get you through this.