Also see: Living with Thoughtworms and Guilt
Immediately after Doug died, I was plagued by guilt.
Initially, I felt guilty for not having been a perfect wife. I thought the feeling might subside with time.
Instead the guilt has morphed into a different form. Now I feel guilty mainly for two things: being alive, and being happy.
I am alive. Doug is not. I experience things he cannot - the changing of seasons, a friend's wedding, holidays, a sunny day.
This triggers guilt. It reminds me of what they call "survivor's guilt." Survivor's guilt is a term that typically refers to soldiers who have lost a comrade in combat, or people who survive a horrible disaster or (such as 911) or experience (such as the Holocaust) though others do not.
Those who are left behind may be troubled by thoughts that their life was not worth more than the life of the person who died. They may feel unworthy of surviving. They tend to torture themselves about things that they had no control over, the "what if's...." Why did I live and they didn't? What if I had done such and such? Then they might have lived. They may wish they could change places with the person who died, and can even become suicidal.
People who suffer from survivor's guilt may not allow themselves to feel happiness, becoming numb or detached. If they do feel happiness, they feel guilty about being happy.
Which brings me to Part II of my feelings of guilt. It has been more than a year and a half since Doug's sudden death. These days, there are more good times than bad. I am re-engaging in life. I am beginning to focus more on the future than on the past.
I met someone - another widower - and feel love again. But I feel like I am cheating on Doug. This is probably because I don't really believe he is dead, or that our marriage was only "till death do us part." I don't for a minute think Doug would deny me any relief or happiness. My family and friends have reminded me that his life pretty much centered on making me happy.
However, some of those same people are judgemental about my new relationship. I allow this to enhance feelings of guilt.
To top it off, I also feel guilty when I am with PS but thinking of Doug - missing him, feeling sad, feeling love for him. I feel this is not fair to PS because I am not fully present. Fortunately, as he is a widower, he understands and never makes me feel guilty - I am making myself feel that way.
The guilt is getting in the way of fully enjoying the life I am lucky and grateful to be living.
I know the guilt isn't necessarily logical. But I wanted it to stop - I want to fix it. Maybe that isn't possible.
The grief counselor says you cannot rationalize away feelings - you can only process and release them. And as they say, "Resistance breeds Persistence." Perhaps I should just allow it.
Or maybe I should thank the Catholic church for brainwashing me with Catholic Guilt. Ian Hancock, an expert in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder said that "as a religion,Catholicism does rather tend to emphasise personal responsibility, guilt and right and wrong. Any strong teaching that emphasizes these issues in a very powerful way could be additional pressure for somebody who is prone to feeling guilt in the first place."
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