Got Guilt? How to Process COVID-19 Related Guilt

So much guilt. So little time. COVID-19 has brought out all the guilty feelings in many of us as we try to process all that is happening in the world and its effect on us and those we care about.

Maybe you are an essential worker, and you feel guilty about your resentment towards the situation and the demands being made of you as a result. Perhaps you feel guilty for not being able to visit your elderly grandparents during this lockdown. Or you feel guilty because your kids are struggling with remote learning and aren’t able to participate in normal childhood activities.

“One of the most important things you can do to help lessen feelings of guilt is to recognize those feelings and accept them for what they are—a symptom of the stress and anxiety of this global pandemic,” said Amber Olson, LCSW, with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH). “Some irrational guilt is to be expected. Don’t be afraid to open up with trusted friends or family about how you feel.”

On a deeper more problematic level is guilt related to trauma. For example, a frontline healthcare worker working on a COVID-19 unit may experience survivor’s guilt in the face of so much suffering and loss or guilt over potentially exposing their family to the virus. This type of guilt can result in physical and emotional illness.

If you are experiencing guilt that results in any of the following symptoms, please consider reaching out for professional help.

  • Loss of sleep due to nightmares or insomnia
  • Emotional roller coaster that includes irritability, manic energy or apathy toward favorite people or enjoyable activities
  • Feelings of isolation or emotional detachment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate beyond short bursts

Need to talk? 

As behavioral health services across the state close temporarily in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Memorial Behavioral Health provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. In addition, MBH has established a free and confidential emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to provide support to individuals who are experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not MBH patients.