Dilemma: I'm moving on but feeling guilty

Jo Brand / 28 July 2017

Following the death of her husband two years ago a reader now finds herself feeling guilty when she starts to enjoy her life.



Dilemma: I feel guilty for feeling happy

My husband died two years ago. We had a very long and happy marriage, and I nursed him through the last years of his life. Now I’m starting to get out and about, having family and friends over, taking up painting classes again and even making new friends.

The trouble is, if I have a lovely time or catch myself laughing and feeling happy, I feel conscience-stricken about it. I just can’t seem to get over it and wake up at 3am, the terrible guilt bothering me greatly.

Jo Brand's advice

Funny old lot, aren’t we? Many of us just cannot allow ourselves to be happy, saddled as we are with a soup of emotions from our past and self-imposed – or ‘socially acceptable’ – time limits on certain feelings, within which we feel we should live.

Just how long did you give yourself before you felt it would be seemly to start smiling again?

You may well still be grieving for your husband and that’s why you continue to be prone to sadness, anxiety and guilt. Or you could somehow have internalised the feeling that you are not allowed to be happy if your partner has died. You are permitted to still smile and enjoy yourself, you know!

They do say (whoever they are) that two years is an approximate and appropriate length of time to grieve. Some people never get over their partner’s death; others move on quickly.

Sometimes we all need permission to move on. I give you it! If that’s not good enough (I suspect it won’t be), try talking to your parish priest, GP or a bereavement counsellor. I’m sure they’ll say the same.

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