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Grief and Guilt … and Forgiveness


God's grace

God’s grace

I was in a dilemma. My husband was still in the hospital, five months after a dual organ transplant. He was very, very sick. But several friends God had surrounded us with in Florida, 3000 miles from home, had made a special Thanksgiving dinner. They invited me and another transplant wife to join them. I wanted to cancel and stay with Jerry. But I feared that if I backed out, the other woman would as well, since she didn’t know these sweet friends who were reaching out to both of us.

Jerry was not happy that I left his side. He may have sensed he would not live long; and in fact he died three days later. Torn that Thanksgiving night, I left, then returned to the hospital as soon as I thought polite. Walking into Jerry’s room, I greeted him with a smile and a warm kiss. I walked around his bed, and what I saw made my heart shatter. A pile of clotted blood, about five inches high, sat beside my husband’s open, but packed, abdominal wound. I looked up quickly. “WHAT IS THIS?”

“Shhh,” responded the nurse as she called for help. Within minutes several doctors were in the room. Tension, and my fear, ran high. I stayed until Jerry was stabilized and could sleep, then left the hospital for my own bed about 2 am.

Would anything have been different if I had stayed with Jerry that evening? I’ll never know. He had multiple episodes of internal bleeding. But I had to deal with the question and its resulting guilt.

As Rene said two weeks ago, Christmas is a magnifier of our emotions. When life is great, Christmas is fun, uplifting, warm. When there are tensions in our homes, we suffer loss, loneliness or guilt over real or perceived mistakes, Christmas increases those feelings exponentially.

Are you grieving the loss of someone dear to you? a decision you made that you aren’t certain was best? After Jerry’s death there were things for which I felt I needed to ask God’s forgiveness, and other things for which I had to forgive myself. I made the decisions I did with the information I had, and with wise counsel–could I have done better?  Guilt–real and imagined–nagged at me.Jesus forgave me; forgive self

My brother Melvyn, a doctor, encouraged me not to go to the “what ifs”. “They change nothing and will only keep you in a hole.” That helped, but I also needed to receive God’s forgiveness, let go, and move forward.

If you’re dealing with guilt, real or false, find a trusted friend to pray with. Ask God for forgiveness and help to forgive yourself, and accept that He knows the past, the present, and the future. Ask Him to bring beauty from your ashes in the New Year.


  1. MarJean Peters says:

    I think we all can relate to your story in one way or another, at one time or another. I found that the “accuser of the brethren” can accuse us to ourselves relentlessly. We all must fight the good fight and continue to encourage one another as you just did! Blessings, sweet friend!!

    1. carolnl says:

      I agree, MarJean. The enemy of our soul is relentless in trying to get us to believe his lies rather than God’s truths! Love you.

  2. Karen O'Connor says:

    Carol, thank you for this tender account of your last days with Jerry when guilt overwhelmed you. Regret and guilt are such enemies of our spirit. Thank you for reminding us that we do what we can with what we have at the time. We will always know better later on. I have found that to be true too. I LOVE the little note from Jesus about forgiveness! I will hold onto that.

    1. carolnl says:

      Thanks, Karen. I too love that note from Jesus. Grace is such a great gift!

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