How to response in this situation

A close friend (believer) who had all the courage to speak with me said that his life has changed since the time his sister died. She was going through some serious sickness (staying in the middle east with their mother) and asked him several times to send some money so that she can go to hospital to do tests and pay bills if she had to be admitted for surgery / pay bills.

His mother (staying with his sister) insisted over the phone that she (sister) is allright and nothing is wrong. Church is praying for recovery and nothing is serious.

He couldn’t effort to send money to his sister because his salary was not enough.

Within couple of months his sister died.
Now he is shocked, grieving and keeps on thinking day and sometimes sleepless nights that ‘he is the cause of his sisters death’ by not sending money and feeling guilty. He said to me that he cannot be happy since the time of her death and even pastors, family tried to comfort him. This thought keeps haunting.

Which book(s), articles, videos would you suggest that I can give him to let him know that he is not the cause of his sisters death. Recently I came across Ravi’s video in which he explains but cannot find anymore. Please help or do you think he needs a doctor or a counseling.

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This is so heart wrenching. Your poor friend. It is so easy to carry the guilt for things that happen in this world. I don’t know of any books particularly, but there are likely others on here that will. However, I would encourage your friend 1. EVERY one of us is going to die. Death is what we should expect for our sisters, parents and ourselves. 2. We are not in charge of the time of ANYONE’s death, ONLY God is. This is very important. We live in a day and age when we can intervene medically in so many ways. Unfortunately for us, this brings a real load of guilt. “did I pick the right medicine?” “should I have this operation or that?” and so forth. We REALLY need to remember as Christians that our active choices and our neglect of choice we should perhaps have made, are also in the hand of Almighty God. We are NOT in charge of life and death! This should be very freeing to him. Here are a couple of verses regarding this
Job 14:5-7 New Life Version (NLV)
5 A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set. 6 So now look away from him that he may rest, until he has lived the time set for him like a man paid to work. and also -
Psalm 139:16 New International Version (NIV)
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Also, it is important for your friend to remember that we can only respond on the information that we are given. He believed what his mother said. He assumed that she knew what she was talking about. Looking back, he may have wished that he had not believed her, but that was the information he had been given. He did the best with what he had.
And finally, if he did not have the ability to send money, why should he torment himself over this? Death is ALWAYS and ONLY in God’s hands. I hope your friend will find some rest in his soul. You are a kind friend to walk along side of him. Perhaps that is all you can do for now.

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@josephdiwan I agree wholeheartedly with what @Palmtree said :slight_smile: Your friend made the wisest decision he was able with the information that was available to him. That is all that any of us can do.

One thing that stood out to me as I read a few articles is that sometimes people either use guilt as a shield against the pain of grief or they mingle together their grief and their guilt. One benefit of an experienced counselor is that they could help your friend to untangle these two things, take time to grieve and properly handle their feelings of guilt.

If only I hadn’t gone to basketball practice that day, I could’ve kept my sister from the accident! If I hadn’t been thinking about myself, I could’ve stayed up with Dad and been with him when he died! Your mind may race with thoughts like these, trying to figure out how you could have kept death or loss from happening. Most of the time, our regrets come out of unreasonable expectations of ourselves. We review the event in our minds and come to the inaccurate conclusion that we could have made a difference. You need to realize that those feelings will be there. Many times people wish that they had died instead of the other person. This survivor’s guilt creates a sorrow over having survived when someone else died or was injured.

Besides the “unrealistic” regrets, there may be times when we really have blown it — we may wish we hadn’t said what we did or hadn’t acted in a certain manner. Talking with a parent or pastor can help you get a handle on the degree to which your regret is realistic. Tell God if there is something you wish you could’ve changed. If you need to confess something, God is available and ready to forgive you when you come to Him with a repentant heart.5 Read God’s comforting words in 1 John 1:9.

  • keep a daily routine
  • recognize who is truly responsible
  • give yourself time to grieve - focus on handling the sadness rather than using the guilt to avoid grieving
  • do something meaningful for someone else
  • consider journaling your feelings

Therapists and other mental health professionals can listen, validate, and empathize with a person who is experiencing severe symptoms of survivor’s guilt after a tragedy; they can help them to verbalize the feelings of guilt and acknowledge it allowed, discuss whether or not the guilt is rational or irrational, help them to challenge the negative thoughts that maintain their guilt, and to redirect the feelings of guilt into positive outlets such as advocacy, volunteering, or personal growth. It will also be important, not only to work on processing the guilt, but also working on managing the grief that may be resulting from losing a loved one or witnessing a death. Both of these things in congruence with one another are extremely important to work through so that these scary and traumatic events do not impact your overall health, well-being, and functioning.

https://www.e-counseling.com/articles/what-is-survivors-guilt/

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So Encouraging

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When I read this my heart sank for your friend. And I know your heart must be grieved for him and you are desperate to help. Loosing a sister is hard enough. Guilt just intensifies it and slows or stifles the healing process. I have a sister who carried guilt over the loss of her daughter for 3 years. I also carried some guilt over my niece and two of my sisters who died unexpectedly. “Could have, should have, would have”…
The article attached hit the nail on the head. —“Guilt implies intent to harm.”— I have never thought of it that way. In no way did your friend “intend” to harm his sister. Even if he could have sent money and didn’t, it was not an intent to harm. “And I also agree with @Palmtree, that your friend believed his mom and responded with the information he was given.” And his poor mom, she must be devastated and heart broken. God bless their hearts, I have been lifting them up in prayer since I read this and will continue to do so :pray:t3:
https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2016/04/how-get-rid-feelings-guilt-following-loss
I hope this will help. Please keep us posted on any progress.

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I agree with everyone else on this thread so I’ll keep my response short. But I think your friend needs grief counseling. It’s very easy to fall into depression when you lose someone and blame yourself. He needs professional counseling to help him sort through those emotions.

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