5 Powerful Ways of Finding Freedom from Empathic Guilt

Being a seasoned, licensed psychotherapist did not prevent me from feeling the heavy burden of guilt, the rage, the unending sadness following my beloved cat, Simba’s passing. I found myself stuck in an obsessive loop of what if’s and the negative. I have heard it countless times myself from being on the other side of the couch, it is common to blame oneself and say I should have ______________ after the death of a loved one. The brain loves to focus on regret after a loss of any kind.

Guilt as a gift

Guilt is a gift that shows us that we have crossed a boundary and hurt another being. It signals us to go back and assess our behavior in order to make amends. Guilt allows us to be compassionate and caring towards other people. For these reasons, you do not want to block or repress guilt feelings.

A normal part of grief or loss

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”
Leo Tolstoy

Guilt is a natural part of the grieving process, don’t beat yourself up when it happens to you. Perhaps there are lessons you could learn, maybe not. Many times you have given all you could and it still is not enough. This is a reflection of the imperfect world that we live in rather than a human failing on your part. When you experience a loss of any kind, fixating upon thoughts of guilt only hurts yourself.

It is important for empaths to remember that when you grieve, you are vulnerable to any and all negative thoughts from yourself and others. When others project their negativity onto you, it is not personal but rather a reflection of where they are in their growth/healing. Please work to not take what others say to heart, remember to set boundaries and protect those precious healing energies of yours.

Guilt as a burden

As an empath, you often feel responsible for events and actions that are not yours to own. You feel the world’s suffering by witnessing wars and abuses of power. Closer to home, you feel responsible when relationships end or change. You have a deep desire to want to heal or fix things.

I classically took on too much responsibility in my younger years; whether it was accepting blame about abuse done towards me, feeling that I didn’t give enough when a relationship shifted or working too much. I changed these dynamics by setting boundaries and protecting my energies. This is why I am passionate about helping other empaths find freedom from guilt.

Empaths can get stuck in the pain and suffering of those we love even after the normal grieving process. If you are struggling and can not move forward, reach out for professional help. What I had to re-remember is not to give the guilt too much focus after the initial 3 weeks. Also, coping with a pet’s death can be more intense than a human’s because of their dependence on us and ability to give unconditional love.

A little bit about Simba


Simba was a true fighter. He was given a terminal diagnosis over three and a half years ago, to live a few weeks to a month. We pulled out all the stops in the healing arena; steroid treatments, flower essences, reiki healings, prayer etc. Simba was stoic and gave it his all. It was hard to believe that he had a tumor on his voice box when he was racing through our yard climbing trees with glee and meowing. He taught us to live our life with every ounce of joy.

We became accustomed to miracles as he had numerous setbacks over these three years and bounced back to the astonishment of everyone. I wrote a story about him which was published in I love Cats, winter 2015, entitled An Unexpected Gift, detailing many parts of our healing journey with him. Today, he is with me in spirit as I write these words.

5 Powerful Ways to Find Freedom from Empathic Guilt

  1. Increased self -care– Slow down, be gentle with yourself. Say no to projects or activities that do not support your healing and use your protective boundaries.
  2. Empathic supports– People who are not supportive prior to your loss do not magically become supportive. Seek out empathic friends and an empathic psychotherapist to discuss guilt feelings whether they are from loss or being an empath.
  3. Be aware- Remember it is normal to experience guilt as it is part of the grief process.  Read about and learn what the normal stages of grieving are. Remember your empathic qualities and honor/protect them. As an empath, you are more susceptible to feeling guilt due to your sensitivity and caring nature. People who are sociopaths do not experience guilt.
  4. Make a list of what happened, just the facts- Leave the judgments behind. No should have’s, could have’s or would have’s on this list. When these words appear cross them out. Take on only the responsibility that is yours. These are your areas of growth, learn from them and then you are free to let it all go.
  5. Forgive yourself, forgive others, forgive the Divine- Behind guilt and anger is blame. Anger, a normal process of loss, is useful because it gives you the energy to do the work of grief. It is hard work! Long-term anger, as in long term guilt, will harm your physical body and spirit.

More about Lisa Hutchison:  As a licensed mental health counselor with over 14 years of experience, Lisa offers therapy sessions in person and by phone to empathic helpers and artists. She understands grief and loss from her own personal experiences and years of therapy training, offering you the space to express your inner thoughts and feelings while showing you specific ways to get unstuck. Get 8 Simple Things That Reelase CHaos from Your Life Now FREE at http://www.lisahutchison.net


25 thoughts on “5 Powerful Ways of Finding Freedom from Empathic Guilt

  1. Lisa, thank you for this beautiful post. It came at the perfect time for me. Still grieving my dad’s passing it is the gift I needed to hear, “This is normal, find empathic help if needed.” I’m so sorry to hear you lost your beloved Simba. Much love to you. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful Lisa, so sorry for the loss of your fur baby. As a lover of animals i went through those losses many times and know how hard they are. I recently lost my dad and I am in the midst of a very heavy grief. Thank you for the reminders to increase self care and be gentle as this process unfolds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your condolences Rachel. I know you too are walking your own grief journey and my heart goes out to you during this time. I’ m glad I could supply some reminders to help support you xx


  3. Lisa, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Simba. This is a wonderful article on dealing with guilt and grief. We all go through these feelings during loss. We love strongly, which causes pain for those left behind. One of my closest friends just lost her beloved pet and is inconsolable right now. I know my best way forward is simply to be there for her as she goes through the many stages of grief. Blessings to you and to Simba.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this post, Lisa. And for invitation to feel compassion for guilty feelings – without all the “should have’s”. How lucky Simba was to have such a caring person as yourself in his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Having recently experienced a loss, I appreciate this post. I especially like the reminder that “people who are not supportive prior to your loss do not magically become supportive.” Actually, it made me laugh and feel supported in my choice to have been “less available” for the past few weeks.

    I, too, was fortunate to have one of those “miracle pets” in my life. The bonding that is created by the partnership around serious illness is intense and teach us so much. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Andrea, I love hearing how people individually resonate with my post and am glad to hear that it was helpful for you. Sorry to hear about your recent loss. It is good to hear that you are taking care of yourself.xx


  7. I empathize with your loss, it’s always hard. I appreciate your perspective of guilt after death of a loved one. I’ve gone back and questioned myself on things done and not done so many times. All it does is reopen the wound…

    Liked by 1 person

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