Dealing with guilt

Does anybody else feel guilty about what they did wrong or that didn’t do the right thing when they should have done? My wife, Helen, died nine weeks ago today having been diagnosed with lung cancer some 6 months earlier. I am feeling guilty, no I am guilty, that I did so little to make amends for the tough times and also guilty that I didn’t give her enough love in the time we had left. This is getting in the way of grieving for Helen as herself (and this brings on the tears again) for what a loving and caring person she was.

I realise this is self pitying and that things cannot be changed but I then think of the 3 holidays we managed in the 6 months left and realise how lucky we were when others have had sudden bereavements. I am finding it really difficult to work through this despite a very good son, Helen’s friends and our neighbours. If you have got this far, thanks for reading.

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I am a widow too, under very very similar circumstances. Death is cruel as it takes away the chance to make up for the mistakes we make. By the sounds of it, you did EVERYTHING you could to make her last days as happy as you could. I virtually didn’t work for 3 months. If Kate wanted to do something, we’d do it. but I know what you mean. Did you talk a lot in those last weeks?

Thanks very much for your reply, sometimes you don’t know whether it is just you feeling a particular way. No, we didn’t talk nearly enough, partly I was in denial, partly the NHS/ carer role was taking over our relationship, partly I was, as too usual, leaving the heart to heart talk too much to Helen.

I was lucky that I had recently retired, it must have been very difficult for you to manage with work as well. I am glad to hear that if your Kate wanted to do something with you that’s what happened. We tried to do as many things as possible and I do know that on our last break Helen just did not want to come back from Scotland but we did. Perhaps if I’d …but there are too many ifs. Is it long since you lost your Kate and how have you managed to cope since?

Hi - it’s been 15 years since Kate died. She and I were only 32. I have since remarried and have got two lovely kids, aged 3 and 5. However, I posted earlier about finding this year harder than I have for most of the last decade. It’s one of those things where I feel almost scared that there’s so much distance that I’m going to lose the connection. My advice would be to get as much help as you can now and in the next few years. It’s become obvious to me that the pain doesn’t really ever go away. I wish I hadn’t tried to be so stoic in those early years. I should have crumbled more than I allowed myself to. Life is so short. I think you need to accept that the pain of losing Helen will never actually go away - but in a weird way I don’t think you’ll want it to. But life DOES go on and she’d be upset if she felt that you weren’t living life as fully as possible.

I hope this helps…


I know nothing but I can’t believe that you will ever forget Kate and the good things you had. The mere fact you are scared of the distance you think is there is a sign you are still feeling the loss, that there is still the connection. Is there a Randy Newman song “Roll with the punches”? - that’s what I am trying to do at the moment.

Thanks for your advice about getting help, I have joined a local church bereavement group and I am contacting a Hospice bereavement team as well - I am not expecting they can bring Helen back (what wouldn’t I give!) but I hope they can help me get some sort of handle on things - I feel I can’t be any use to anyone else if I am of no use to myself. No, I don’t think I do want to lose the pain, rather pain than feeling numb. Thanks for all your good words and I am sure I am not the only one here feeling your pain with you.

I understand how you feel Alan. I lost my husband to blood cancer 9 weeks ago .He had been in hospital but came home 2 weeks before he died. He went downhill so quickly.
I feel guilty that we didn’t get to talk enough, that I didnt spend enough time with him etc etc It broke my heart to see him deteriorating so fast but I do think I was in denial and couldn’t accept I was losing him. We had been married 52 years. I am so lost without him. Sending love and hugs to you all.

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Hello Anne. My condolences to you on the death of your husband. Being a carer and watching your loved one slip away from you is hard to navigate. Like you, I was in denial when my husband was deteriorating following two strokes. The grieving process started even before my husband died. I experienced disbelief, anger, denial and a whole lot of very negative emotions. He was unable to speak for the last three years although could communicate reasonably well in other ways. He was never one for bearing his soul but after 47 years I could imagine what he was trying to get across to me although we couldn’t have any deep discussions. He was equally angry, sad and resentful which was a bit of a toxic mix between the pair of us but we both tried to hold on to our love for each other. The guilt of not being kinder or more empathic will take a long time to process but it must be dealt with in order to heal.
I hope in time you come to terms with your great loss and remember with a smile all the wonderful times you had together before your husband became so unwell. I wish you love, strength and courage as you navigate your way forward.

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