As noted previously, some have feelings of guilt after losing a loved one in death. This may help to explain the acute grief of the faithful man Jacob when he was led to believe that his son Joseph had been killed by “a vicious wild beast.” Jacob himself had sent Joseph out to check on the welfare of his brothers. So Jacob was likely plagued with guilt feelings, such as ‘Why did I send Joseph out alone? Why did I send him out into an area abounding with wild beasts?’—Genesis 37:33-35.
Perhaps you feel that some neglect on your part contributed to your loved one’s death. Realizing that guilt—real or imagined—is a normal grief reaction can be helpful in itself. Here again, do not necessarily keep such feelings to yourself. Talking about how guilty you feel can provide a much needed release.
Realize, though, that no matter how much we love another person, we cannot control his or her life, nor can we prevent “time and unforeseenoccurrence” from befalling those we love. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Besides, no doubt your motives were not bad. For example, in not making a doctor’s appointment sooner, did youintendfor your loved one to get sick and die? Of course not! Then are you really guilty of causing that one’s death? No.
One mother learned to deal with the guilt after her daughter died in a car accident. She explains: “I felt guilty that I had sent her out. But I came to realize that it was ridiculous to feel that way. There was nothing wrong with sending her with her father to run an errand. It was just a terrible accident.”
‘But there are so many things I wish I had said or done,’ you may say. True, but who of us can say that we have been the perfect father, mother, or child? The Bible reminds us: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” (James 3:2;Romans 5:12) So accept the fact that you are not perfect. Dwelling upon all kinds of “if onlys” will not change anything, but it may slow down your recovery.
If you have sound reasons to believe that your guilt is real, not imagined, then consider the most important factor of all in allaying guilt—God’s forgiveness. The Bible assures us: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand? For there is the true forgiveness with you.” (Psalm 130:3, 4) You cannot return to the past and change anything. You can, though, beg God’s forgiveness for past mistakes. Then what? Well, if God promises to wipe the slate clean, should you not also forgive yourself?—Proverbs 28:13;1 John 1:9.
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