Which is Worse; Grief or Guilt?

When faced with the loss of a loved one, many individuals experience a whirlwind of emotions. Two of the most profound and challenging feelings are grief and guilt. As we navigate these emotions, particularly as family members in mourning, it's essential to understand their impact on our mental health and how we can find a path towards healing.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Dec 6, 2023
3 min read

Grief is a natural response to loss, particularly the death of a close family member or friend. It encompasses a range of emotions, from deep sadness to anger, and can manifest differently in everyone. On the other hand, guilt is a feeling of remorse or responsibility for a perceived wrongdoing, whether rational or irrational. In the context of losing a loved one, guilt often arises from thoughts like “I should have done more” or “I could have prevented this.”

The Interplay of Grief and Guilt

For many, grief and guilt are intertwined, creating a complex emotional landscape. You might find positive thoughts overshadowed by negative thoughts, leading to heightened levels of guilt. This guilt when grieving is not uncommon and can manifest as feelings of guilt about things left unsaid or undone.

Coping with guilt while grieving requires understanding that these feelings, whether rational or irrational, are a normal part of the mourning process. Thought stopping techniques can be helpful in managing obsessive negative thoughts. This involves consciously stopping a negative thought and replacing it with a more positive or rational one.

Mental Health and Grief-Related Guilt

The impact of grief and guilt on mental health cannot be overstated. Prolonged feelings of guilt can lead to emotional exhaustion and complicate the grieving process. It’s important to acknowledge these emotions and, if necessary, seek professional help to navigate through them.

Grief is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Experience

Everyone’s experience with grief is unique. Some may primarily feel sadness, while others might experience guilt more intensely. Understanding that there is no “right” way to grieve is crucial. Allow yourself to feel without judgment, whether it’s grief, guilt, or a combination of both.

Finding Support in Community

Joining a support group can be incredibly beneficial. Sharing your experiences with others who understand can make you feel less isolated and provide perspectives that help you cope with guilt and grief. The Grief Works app, inspired by Julia Samuel’s insights, offers a supportive community for those in mourning. It’s a space where you can share your feelings, learn from others’ experiences, and find solace in knowing you’re not alone.

Amidst the turmoil of grief and guilt, finding positive thoughts can be a lifeline. Focusing on good memories, honoring the loved one’s life, and engaging in activities that bring joy can help balance the negative thoughts that often accompany grief.

Guilt: Rational or Irrational?

It’s vital to discern between rational and irrational guilt. Rational guilt stems from something you did or didn’t do that realistically could have changed the outcome. Irrational guilt, however, is based on things beyond your control. Recognizing this difference can alleviate unnecessary self-blame.

To overcome feelings of guilt, start by acknowledging them. Understand that guilt is a common part of grieving and doesn’t diminish the love you had for the deceased. Practicing self-compassion and engaging in self-care activities are crucial steps in this journey.

Experience Guilt but Don’t Dwell in It

While it’s normal to experience guilt during grief, dwelling in these feelings can be harmful. Thought stopping, mindfulness, and focusing on positive memories can help shift your focus. Remember, experiencing guilt doesn’t mean you’re at fault; it’s a natural response to loss.

Healing from grief and guilt is a journey. It involves acknowledging your feelings, seeking support, and finding ways to remember your loved one. The Grief Works app can be a part of this journey, offering resources and a community to help you navigate these challenging emotions.


In the end, it’s not about which is worse, grief or guilt, but how we handle these emotions. Both are natural responses to loss and can coexist. By understanding them, seeking support, and finding ways to cope, we can navigate our way through this difficult time. The Grief Works app is a tool that can support you on this journey, helping you find your way back to a place of peace and acceptance.

Remember, you are not alone in your grief and guilt. With the right tools and support, you can find a path forward, one where memories bring comfort, not pain, and where you can honor your loved one in a way that brings healing to your heart.