Guilt

Guilt is anger turned inwards. Suicide produces many painful and confusing emotions in survivors, one of which is frustration at being so violently cut off from the victim – from the chance to help them, talk with them, or even simply to say goodbye. This frustration produces anger, and when we turn this anger upon ourselves, the result is guilt. Guilt can also come from an unfounded assumption that others are silently blaming us.

 

Guilt is the one negative emotion that seems to be universal to all survivors of suicide, and overcoming it is perhaps our greatest obstacle on the path to healing. Guilt is your worst enemy, because it is a false accusation.

 

You are not responsible for your loved one’s suicide in any way, shape, or form. Write it down. Say it to yourself over and over again (even when it feels false). Tattoo it onto your brain. Because it’s the truth. Why do suicide survivors tend to blame themselves? Psychiatrists theorize that human nature subconsciously resists so strongly the idea that we cannot control all the events of our lives that we would rather fault ourselves for a tragic occurrence than accept our inability to prevent it. Simply put, we don’t like admitting to ourselves that we’re only human, so we blame ourselves instead.

 

One of the most unusual aspects of survivor guilt is that it is usually a solo trip – each survivor tends to blame primarily themselves. Try asking another person who is also mourning your lost loved one about any guilt feelings that are haunting them. Chances are you will find that each person – no matter how close or removed they were from the suicide victim – willingly takes the lion’s share of blame on themselves. If they were the one closest to the deceased then they theorize, “I should’ve known exactly what was going on in their mind.” If they were distanced from that person, they feel, “If I’d only been closer to them…” Well, you can’t all be to blame, can you? Isn’t it far more logical that none of you are responsible.

 

* Excerpted from A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide, by Jeffrey Jackson, 2004.

 

5 Comments

  • Joescrusade says:

    Guilt is the most crushing of emotions; I can’t say personally I’ve ever felt the guilt as bad as the anger I feel in relation to my son Joe’s death but I’ve never felt anger towards him or anyone.
    I do know that everyone touched by his passing feels levels of guilt, we all question what we did or didn’t do. What we feel we missed or should had seen, hindsight can be torturous in this situation.
    Does it lessen over time? I’m only 7 months down this road, so things are still very raw and guilt is still a large rock I carry daily. I hope in the years to come it fades a little and is replaced with some kind of acceptance than no matter my actions, I couldn’t have foreseen or stopped his actions.
    However, the one thing I am sure of is no matter how awful the feelings of guilt are, they never come close to the overwhelming love I have for Joe and always will.

    • Mary Jane says:

      A great post FOSL on guilt. I am finding it very helpful in looking back at the whole situation after losing my daughter to suicide at age 23 ovr 2 and half years ago.Yes Joesrusade the guilt is crushing as you rightly put it.You seem to be well aware of the situation in such a short period.To answer your question yes the ” heavy rock” you so aptly described will get lighter as mine did,only recently may I add after attending support groups and 1 to 1 counselling which I did not do in the first year.I like the way you say the guilt will”never come close to the overwhelming love”.I never thought that before.That’s beautiful and so true.

    • jennymac says:

      I don’t know that it lessens over time. I do know that the guilt comes in waves for me, just not necessarily as often. My son passed almost 5 years ago. And yes, hindsight is 20/20. I still think about what I should have noticed, what I should have said and all the “what ifs”.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Joescrusade
      I’m so sorry for the tragic loss of your son.
      I lost my sister 22 years ago. Yes, after many years the guilt lessens and you stop blaming yourself…but I can tell you I sought professionall help, but not soon enough.
      I wish I would have joined a support group or a grievers group for suicide much sooner because it really did help. Good luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *