“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
Guilt comes in different colors.
Rational guilt burns a bright red, like a traffic light. It signals that your actions are not honoring you, others or the Universe. When you see this color, the wisest choice is to stop before the damage gets worse.
Irrational guilt burns a somber blue, like a melancholy poem. It whispers sabotaging thoughts like, “It was your fault;” “You should have known better;” and “Why didn’t you do more?” When you see this color, the wisest choice is to let the guilt go.
Feeling the burn
Since my brother’s death, irrational guilt has been burning inside of me. Bouts of depression, restless nights and thinking I could have saved him, has damaged my spirit. My head tells me Eric’s death wasn’t my fault, but my heart wants to rewind the clock and do things differently.
But time has a merciful way of offering a little perspective and some needed healing. I’m learning that before I can move past his death, I need to let go of the guilt – guilt my head is telling me isn’t rational. Thankfully, my heart is beginning to hear these truths:
- My brother’s memory deserves my whole heart; not a broken one that is distracted by the cruel whispering.
- It’s time to focus on what I need. The energy I’ve spent trying to undo the past is keeping me from living in the present. Precious moments are slipping away. It’s time to hold onto these moments a little tighter.
- I’m beginning to recognize the feelings of guilt are really feelings of regret. I regret not calling him sooner; I regret not providing the help he requested and I regret being mad at him the last week he was alive. The way to move past regret is to make peace with the truth. And the truth is I did all I could.
- While my brother deserves love and kindness, so do I. His life is over. There will be a day when we will see each other again. Until that day comes, I will remind myself that if I’m going to be loved, then I need to provide that love and if I’m going to be treated with kindness, then I need to provide kindness, too. Holding on to guilt keeps me from doing both of these things.
Sometimes the simple path to letting go of guilt begins with looking inward and seeing that you are not bad, you are just in pain. And the perfect remedy to sooth your aching heart is to believe these words, “It wasn’t my fault.”
The somber color burning inside of me is smoldering down to a paler blue.
I still think of Eric often. Lately the memories are less about how he died and more about how he lived. I see him smiling, laughing and making the most of every day.
Remembering my brother like this is a better way to honor him. I think if I could talk to Eric one last time, he would tell me, “Mouse, let it go. I’m happy. Please, be happy too.”
For you, Eric, my heart is beginning to listen. For you, brother, my heart is beginning to let it go.
What is A Simple Path?
This post is in A Simple Path, a twice-weekly series of short pieces inspired by my own life experiences. Each post is a simple path to experiencing something wonderful: maybe seeing life from a different perspective, or celebrating its beauty. Click here to read all posts in the series.