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Regret, Guilt, Shame, and Our Lost Pets

By Kaleel Sakakeeny, Animal Chaplain and Credentialed Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselor

Regret, guilt and shame – Are they different? And if you think they are, how are they different?

Many of us use the terms interchangeably, and this is especially true when the time comes to say good bye to our beloved animal friends.

There are always the questions: “I feel so guilty that I didn’t notice Thor’s sickness sooner.” “I’m ashamed I yelled at him when he peed on the floor by accident.” “I deeply regret leaving the door open.”

But there are significant differences here, and knowing the differences can often help ease the pain and grief of loss, and avoid the worse pain of all, self-blame.

If we say we “regret something,” basically we’re saying I’m sad or unhappy I did what I did. I really wish I hadn’t. I feel bad things turned out the way they did.

It suggests that if we had known better, or if we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t have done this or that.

Guilt refers to a belief that we knowingly did something we knew we shouldn’t have! But it’s different depending on the circumstances.

For example, if we know we should close the gate as we leave the yard, and don’t. But knew we should, and ignored that “voice inside” telling us to, that’s guilt. We went against what we knew was right, and for no good reason.

If on the other hand we didn’t close the gate because we forgot to, or thought we had or were rushing say, to catch the bus, that’s a softer kind of guilt. It’s less corrosive.

Shame is a whole other thing! Shame is when we believe we are no good. That because of an error or mistake, accidental or not, we are a bad person.

As author and social worker, Scott Janssen says, we move from “I did something that was bad” to “I’m a bad person because of what I did.” It’s easy to confuse these experiences, Janssen says. And it’s important to differentiate among them.

Many times in my work, someone will say, “I feel so guilty about…”

But as we look at what the person feels guilty about, we see she actually has regrets that such and such happened, and not guilt. As a consequence, she is less likely to blame herself, which a healthier approach to life and psychology.

Please visit our site, animaltalksinc.com and let us know how we can help.

Animal Talks is a nonprofit, animal charity. They rely exclusively on donations for the services they provide to hurting people throughout the U.S. and Europe. Donations are very welcome, and are a tax deduction. You can donate at animaltalksinc.com, and you can buy their new ebook at animaltalksinc.com/ebooks. 

Kaleel Sakakeeny is an ordained Animal Chaplain and Credentialed Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselor, one of very few in the country. He also has BA, MA, and MS degrees, and is certified in Reiki, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Animal Communication, which helps him tremendously in his work with people and animals. Kaleel specializes in grief and sorrow counseling for those who have lost their pet to death. He is very accessible, and works with clients individually or in a group setting. He especially loves working with small groups in workshops, schools, community centers and churches – talking about the beautiful bond between people and their animals. And, addressing your questions about love, loss and our animal companions. Reach out to Kaleel at [email protected]

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