Images of dirty dishes are my personal "thoughtworm" right now. A thoughtworm is a word I made up. It is like an "earworm," which is an annoying song that gets stuck in your head. (An earworm was featured in the fantastic mountaineering movie, Touching the Void.)
I keep thinking about how I never washed the dishes as soon as they got dirty, even though Doug wanted me to. (He didn't ask for much.) I let them pile up for a whole day first. Sometimes I outlasted him, and he did them himself, even though he already did so much else around the house.
BTW, this is NOT a picture of my own kitchen sink. It never got quite that bad.
When someone dies, how does one live with the guilt of things that cannot be undone? I need to know.
I suppose your typical socio/psychopaths like Jeffrey Dahmer don't feel bad about what they did (e.g., in his case, eating people.) However, I expect that anyone with a conscience will feel some degree of guilt at some point.
We are human. We are not perfect (thank you again Riley [8 year old wise soul], for reminding me of this.) We don't behave perfectly all the time. We make mistakes. We do things that are wrong. We don't do things that we should have - things that could have made a difference. We hurt other people.
When someone dies, survivors are left with the realization that it is too late to fix anything with the departed person who was on the receiving end of whatever we did that was NOT perfect. You can't change what you did in the past. If you didn't tell them you were sorry when they were alive, it's too late now. If you mend your ways, others in your life may benefit. The person you lost will never will. How does one come to terms with that?
Some guilt associated with death must be nearly unbearable. For example:
I guess in comparison, the things that I feel guilty about are relatively trivial. (See wishes and regrets). Here are the main ones.
I was not a very good housewife. I am pretty lazy when it comes to chores like doing dishes and cleaning the cat box. Doug was working full time and trying to maintain and restore This Old House. I didn't do enough to lighten his load.
Then I actually increased Doug's burden by purchasing rental properties. I was too frugal sometimes. I asked him to do things himself that I could have paid someone to do. This was part of my financial strategy to save for retirement. He never got to retire.
Unlike me, Doug was a fantastic "roommate." He did about 90% of the work around the house. I paid the cleaning person. I appreciated everything he did, but that's not enough. There were many things I could have done to help. I could have done some of his chores to free him up and give him some more time to do things he enjoyed. Now that I have to do it all myself, I feel this guilt every day
The other thing I feel a lot of guilt are the harsh words to him when I got annoyed. Sometimes the things that bugged me that were clearly insignificant. Occasionally they were important things - like being safe. I can never take those words back. How do I live with that?
These are the only options I've come up with so far. In some ways, this website is an exercise for me. It helps me sort out the squirrels swirling around in my head, as I go through the grieving process. I am trying come out whole and healthy on the other end.
Treat yourself with the same kind of love, respect, and patience that you would offer to a friend, and listen to yourself.
- Laynee Gilbert, from I Remember You: A Grief Journal
Even though there are days I wish I could change some things that happened in the past, there's a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big. Where you're headed is much more important than what you've left behind.