Recent Blog Post
4 Ways to Deal with Guilt After Divorce
This scene from Breaking Bad just kills me every time I see it. (For those unfamiliar with the show, this scene occurs after Jesse began doing drugs with his girlfriend, and she overdosed as a result). I want to scream, “No Jesse! It’s not your fault! You’re not the bad guy!” and we, as an audience, know this to be true, and Walt knows it too, but Jesse is so blinded by his grief and guilt over the loss of his girlfriend that he can’t see it. A lot of people, after going through a divorce, feel just like Jesse. They feel defeated. They feel like they’re failures. They feel like they’re the bad guy. If this is how you feel now that you have gone through a divorce, I want to give you the tools to help you through this difficult time. Divorce is difficult, and even if you have made mistakes, it is important to recognize that you can overcome them.
The first thing that I want to say about guilt and divorce is that it is a totally natural emotion. Divorce occurs because BOTH spouses make mistakes and cannot keep their relationship alive. This means that you share some of the blame. But it does not mean that you carry ALL of the blame. Even if you made some serious mistakes, such as cheating on your spouse or being an absent parent, the blame is not all on you. Of course it is important to take responsibility of your actions, but divorce is something that two people decide on. After your divorce, consider these steps for letting go of your guilt.
- Reflect on your mistakes. As I said in last week’s post about dealing with anger after a divorce, it is important to reflect on the choices that you have made. In order to get past your guilt, you have to confront it. It is important to understand the mistakes that you made in your marriage so that you can avoid them in your future relationships. Consider how you contributed to the end of your marriage. Write down the choices that you made. Think about how your spouse’s actions contributed to these choices. Through this reflection, you can slowly begin to let go.
- Apologize. If, upon reflection, you realize that you made some serious mistakes in your marriage and you truly feel sorry for them, tell your spouse. You can write him or her a letter explaining that you see the things you did wrong in your relationship and you hope that he or she can forgive you. The forgiveness of your ex can help you to forgive yourself. Even if your ex does not forgive you, the fact that you made every effort to make amends can give you peace of mind. In addition, if you feel that you have hurt your children, you can write an apology letter to them.
- Surround yourself with loved ones. You might be feeling dejected at this time, but it is important to keep in mind that you are still loved. Surround yourself with people who care about you and want the best for you. Remind yourself that despite the end of your marriage, you have been a good friend, child, parent, etc. and you have other relationships that you can strengthen. These people will listen to you vent and reassure you that you are still a good person.
- Talk it out. Many times, when we are in the middle of a situation, our judgment gets cloudy. Talking to other people about the situation can help us see the facts. Whether you confide in a friend, a relative, or a professional therapist, it is a good idea to talk through the divorce with someone who can listen to you and give you honest advice.
While there are many ways to get over guilt, these tips are a good place to start. Try them out and take the time to work on forgiving yourself.