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  • Writer's pictureMarybeth Haines

Getting Through The Guilt - How?

When I watch a child play, I am reminded of how sensitive children can be. Everything is a big deal. The first ice cream is amazing and the first time you see the sand at the beach – you’re just so excited! Each new experience is NEW! I think that watching a child while they are experiencing life’s moments for the first time is one of the most fascinating things in the world.

I remember how my childhood was filled with experiences that brought about BIG feelings and I must have learned how to deal with these things called ‘feelings.’ As an adult we have practised and learned how to cope with feelings of sadness, loss, happiness…

So if we have experienced feelings of loss and guilt before, why does it often feel like it’s the very first time? That wretched feeling in the chest that pops up when you least expect it. Yes, that guilt can come and go but it’s a feeling and it’s a tough one.


I have come to realize and accept that writing my book was a way for me to work out my feelings after losing several pets in my lifetime so far. It was a productive way to express myself but it was also something that I wanted readers to have in their own personal tool kit to come back to when/if they wished.

We all have tools in our kits that we pull out when ‘stuff’ happens to us. We learn deep breathing and my journal gets tea stained and worn. I wanted The Power of Pets – 7 Effective Tools to Heal From Pet Loss to be a reminder to me and to each one of you that we are human and that we need touchstones in our lives to ground us and help us get back to our lives. Guilt is a big emotion and a complicated one so I made “guilt” one of the components to Tool #3 – Learning. After I wrote about the 5 stages of grief, I decided to include “guilt” in my book as something that we can experience when we lose a pet.


Guilt can be looked at as anger turned inwards. This internal anger can create negative internal thought processes. People often feel helpless and angry at themselves for not taking certain steps or for making the wrong decisions. I wanted people to allow themselves to stay in these certain ‘feelings’ for as long as they needed to.

There always seems to be a deadline. We have deadlines for school projects, deadlines for reports at work, deadlines and times when we need to return to work. Can we truly have deadlines for when we get over our feelings? Why can we be so hard on ourselves?


I like working with the idea of intentions. If I feel certain uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, I ask myself if I could have done anything differently. Then I ask myself what my intentions were. Were they good intentions? We make decisions based on that moment in time. Did I do everything I could possibly do in that time and space? This process of working through guilt takes time and I believe that people, although you’ve got to get back to work, or finish your project…need time like we need water and food.


Time heals. Those big feelings we had as kids may come back again and again. Talking about it, writing about it and listening to others is key in healing. When we remember that we are human and that our feelings are complicated things, we can figure things out and process our grief in our own time.

So, instead of getting rid of the guilt, work through it, understand it and look it in the eye. Be kind to yourself and honour this uncomfortable feeling because it’s not something to be ignored.

Like my mom always says “this too shall pass” and somehow it does only I’m not exactly sure as to why or how. Understanding this human emotion called guilt and knowing when we are experiencing IT and how to deal with it can bring us closer to that peace we seek.

“It is important to tell yourself that you did the best that you could with what you had at the time” – Dr. Jane R. Shaw, DVM, PhD. Argus Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Quote from Page 55; The Power of Pets – 7 Effective Tools To Heal From Pet Loss
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