Dear Dr. Michelle:
My friend hung himself 15 years ago and I still blame myself. Every day I feel like I’m just going through the motions and can’t seem to feel excited about anything.
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I sense your deep pain and I am sorry this has been affecting you for so long. If your emotions are dull and life experiences are of little interest, it is highly possible that you are depressed. Given what you have described about your feelings, combined with the fact you are blaming yourself and grieving the loss of your friend, I highly recommend therapy with a professional who specializes in grief and loss.
One thing is for certain, we do not have control over another person’s feelings, thoughts, actions, or the ultimate decisions they make, regardless of how much we think we do. You are not responsible for your friend’s death. No matter what you thought you knew or what you thought you could have done differently, you had no ultimate control over your friend’s decision.
If you are having a hard time believing that you are not responsible for your friend’s actions, a therapist can help you sort through the reasons you are taking so much responsibility. They can help you better understand the specific circumstances surrounding your friend’s death and walk you through the stages of grief and loss to help you self-assess why you still feel guilty. Sometimes in order to resolve our grief, we need to forgive ourselves and sometimes we need to forgive the person we have lost. As you work through the grief process, it will be important for you to learn how to accept what “could have been,” “what was,” and the things you cannot change.
Professional counseling might also be beneficial in helping you evaluate if your guilt and grief for your friend is in fact masking or covering up other difficulties you are experiencing in your life. Sometimes when our current problems are too difficult to bear, we cling to our past pain and experiences because they can be safer than trying to face present-day problems that we are having difficulty changing. In this scenario, depression is a very common result.
Again, I am sorry that you are feeling numb. This really means you are feeling pain and do not know how to experience that pain in order to move on. Even if you have tried therapy before, the fact that you are still experiencing problems means that you need to find a different therapist and keep trying. If any of the ideas I’ve presented seem to fit for you, write your thoughts down and bring them with you to therapy for further exploration.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.