Dealing With Grief, Guilt and Gratuity

Dealing With Grief, Guilt and Gratuity


By Barbara Gould

Position of care giver is not always rewarding or even bearable. You are aware ahead of time that a family member or nearing the end of 'this life', but when the final hours passes you find yourself in shock. Compassion tells you that this person's pain and suffering that you have witnessed is now over with. At the same time you feel loss you detect the culprit of guilt creeping into our mind. You realize you are feeling relieved and guilt that its finally over. If this is a member of your immediate family , spouse, parent or child you also have the task of 'handling' things, a task of decision and management.

Loss of a child can bury a large part of yourself in a void that can never be filled. That is not the natural way of things; never do you expect to loose a child.

A parent or spouse usually leaves you in the position of administrator of services, business and/or legal matters as well as the disposing of personal property. For a while you may not have time for the real grief. There is too much to be done. If you have a service or memorial this confirms a closing, superficially at least.

Everyone handles grief differently. There are those who hold it inside of themselves, take it out at times in private but show virtually no emotion. Others who grieve openly, release it and let it go. It is normal to grieve and there are no rules or guidelines.

If you have been the deceased persons personal care giver or are a relative you will always feel guilty and chastise yourself for not doing more. This is after you did all you could do physically and emotionally. "If only" are two words that you need to avoid. For years you will catch yourself saying 'if only I had done this or that or more'. It's a moot point. It is over with and you did the best you could!

Personal Possessions of Loved Ones

Disposing of the deceased 's personal possessions can be torture; or you can ban the bad feelings and concentrate on positive placement of these items. This should be addressed well ahead of time and put on paper, but so often this is neglected or just an unbearable task that no one cares to undertake.

My mother felt that the things given to her should be returned to the giver. Her wishes were carried out to the best of my ability. I have sort of fallen into the same mode of thinking, especially where my kids are concerned. Right at this very moment I have some things on my mind and have not a clue what to do with them. Things of value that you hate to think of just selling. Some of the valuable things have already been put into the hands of the younger generation.

There are however so many things that are just that, "THINGS/STUFF." Special books, mementos, little things that bring back pleasant memories are to be treasured. I am yet in the long process of reading the old novels that belonged to my mother, then passing them on to either family or friends to be further enjoyed.

Photos and snapshots should be labeled, otherwise it is highly likely that no one will even know who they are. I have a few of these also, beautiful old professional photographs and I have no clue who they might be.

Clothes, do not hang on to them if you don't need them. There are so many people out in the world who go without for one reason or another that would be very grateful to have a nice coat or pair of shoes. Hanging onto these things just encourage you to brood and nurse your guilt feelings along. Give these things to a local charity unit or to someone you know that would be glad to have them.

I look at my own home today and have often said in jest, "If I died today my kids would kill me!" They would be appalled at the result of my 'pack-rat' tendencies and feel it a personal assault at being expected to deal with all of would my new spouse! I'm learning that 'less is best' and giving away things so the recipients can enjoy them NOW!

Grief is normal, as is guilt....we do the best we can at any given time with what we have to deal with. Let go of the past and hold on only to the pleasant memories.


About the Author

Barbara Gould is an on-line Columnist and author of "Weird Old Woman Down The Road, and Other Minor Observations." She has other poetry, short stories and articles on aging available. You may contact her at Or visit her at The Senior Courier or

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