Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Coping with Guilt After Irredeemable Loss

Let’s face it, most loss is irredeemable.  That’s the fact that makes it impossible to reconcile in the shorter term—that we can’t do anything to ‘fix’ this now.  We cannot go back to undo or redo what was done.  
What we have to understand, however, is this is a normal human condition.  
It’s both normal to not reach our potential, making mistakes and occasionally upsetting people, and to want to repair things post-loss.  To be left hanging and not able to do what we’d love to have the chance to do can be torture.
The Goal of Adjusting to Loss AND Guilt – Acceptance
Even though the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle ends in acceptance—the person experiencing loss finally accepting life has changed—it’s not a straightforward linear process getting there.
There are shards of anger, denial, bargaining intermingled with splinters of stability, promise and testing as the process of adjustment turns cyclic—without predictability as to what’s coming next.
But acceptance is finally reached—and never before time.  We can actually become prone to thinking we’ve reached acceptance when it’s a mirage of same, particularly if we’re expecting to be at acceptance stage.
For guilt it’s the same, provided we have a logical premise to begin with: that is, guilt is not what we should be feeling, despite its presence.
Here we’re simply applying the Grief Cycle to the guilt we might feel—that is to understand a logical starting point is necessary, and then allow the mind to slowly come to accept this logic.
But sometimes we can struggle to attain an image of logic to fix onto.
Whatever Was Done Was Done With the Best We Had At the Time
Getting to a conscionable place in terms of dealing with guilty feelings is our first and biggest challenge.
This is where counsellors help.  They get you to share your story and then they apply a logical outsider’s perspective on what they’ve learned of your story.
To an outsider, we’re never as ‘guilty’ as we think we are.  Our hearts, morphed by God in love, cannot help feeling guilty, for we could’ve done better.  We can all do better.  Not one day goes past when any of us gets life perfect.  Mistakes happen, and so does sin.  Perfection is a tool the enemy uses against us.
We don’t always operate with full faculties, be it tiredness, irritability from pressure, hormonal fluctuations, adjustment to change, or simply the baggage we carry through life.
We’re predisposed to thinking badly on occasions and this ripples into the lives of others.
Accepting we did what we did with what we had at the time is the maturity of acceptance, the disposition of humility.  It’s a blessed place that everyone can inhabit.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

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