Dealing with Grief and Gracefully Disengaging from Blame

I originally posted this a year ago but I recently read an article on the Huffington Post discussing the issue of blame and thought I would repost since it seems to be an ongoing problem.

I have had some interesting and difficult conversations over the last two years. I thought I would share this one in particular, in case you are encountering similar circumstances, because it has taken me a long while to understand the reasons and complex nature of blame.

"I Blame You" note

I recently re-visited the coroner’s office, because when I was there at four in the morning, just a few hours after my husband’s death, things were in complete pandemonium. I returned seeking clarity, I suppose.

The memories of that night are a surreal mixture of bits and pieces. I clearly remember the car ride, but not entering the building. The room is etched in my memory, but not the sleek and modern exterior of the building, which defies the grisly nature of the facility.

The trauma of that evening was complicated by the fact that I was impersonated. The first time I called to inquire about my husband, I was denied information. The Coroner believed she had already spoken to me so I had to convince her otherwise. You can’t imagine the confusion.

When I entered the building the other day, I asked the clerk, who was entombed behind an extraordinarily thick wall of glass, if she minded whether I just sat in the room where I had learned the details of my husband’s death.

I must have seemed odd, or perhaps suspicious, because suddenly the Chaplain was beside me. He wasn’t present that night, so it was interesting to hear his perspective on my experience. After recounting the events leading up to the suicide, our conversation circled around to blame.

He helped me to make sense of the seemingly senseless. In his position, he deals with blame on a daily basis, and he asserted that it is not limited to suicide; he witnesses this quirk of human nature in all types of death. He offered that, in many cases, people cannot handle their own pain or simply do not want to deal with it.

Blame is a way of discharging pain immediately and diverting attention elsewhere.

Being blamed for my husband’s death in the midst of handling such a major crisis was excruciatingly painful. My attorney begged me to ignore it. My therapist implored me to turn away. I couldn’t help it. I was compelled to defend myself and protect my children. For the first year, the accusations seeped into my being like an endless rain of acid, compounding my grief and robbing me of precious mental resources.

I am not a religious person, but the Chaplain’s knowledge and perspective helped me to better understand blame.  Although I think it is a cowardly way to handle pain, understanding the motives has been tremendously helpful.

Another helpful practice: don’t take anything personally. A brilliant bit of Toltec wisdom from Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements.

If you are in the murky depths of being blamed so someone else can avoid their own demons, perhaps this will give you the permission you need to disengage. I hope the professional weight of the Chaplain’s words offer you a protective shield of armor. It is something I wish I had understood sooner, so I could have been more present for my children and their grief.


Who is Dianna Bonny?

Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.


  7 comments for “Dealing with Grief and Gracefully Disengaging from Blame

  1. January 21, 2014 at 10:22 am

    What a great post and I can so relate as my husband also committed suicide… Blessings

    • Dianna Bonny
      January 21, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear that we share this in common. Thank you for sharing. Sending love your way. xo

  2. Norma
    August 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Beautifully ssid…my daughter is dealing with the blame if her recently divorced husbands suicide….dealing with his death and trying to be strong for her daughters all the while losing friends who blame her and all his relatives who blame her for what he did. It’s heart breaking and heart wrenching . We all feel do sad for his family but you kniw what….we all list him to…he was considered a son…brother…uncle. just so sad the crap she and all of us are dealing with…being call names and rumors being made up not only about her but her family too ..sooooo over it all!

    • Lorna
      November 12, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      I’m in that boat right now and it’s a living hell 🙁

    • Sorrywe'rehere
      June 28, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Norma and all, I realize these posts were a year ago, but I wanted to tell you all how sorry I am for your losses, and for the way others are behaving towards you and your families.

      My husband died by Suicide May 16, 2016. While we were separated. He was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder barely 3 years prior and had just come out of a long, delusional, horrific manic episode that tore all of us apart. True to the illness he plummeted in to a severe depression. I had lived with him for almost 12 years and I knew what his depressions looked like, and the should have knowns kill me daily. I still loved him, Bipolar kept us apart because of the affects of the disorder was having on the children. We were forced to leave our home things had gotten so bad. He refused help and blamed me, believing I caused his illness and had called fraud services. He accused me of things that did not happen or did not happen the way they did.

      I was met with hostility and blame in the midst of what was left of my life crashing down on me and our children. An aunt said ” I hope you can live with yourself now, he had an illness” the day of the viewing(which I did not want, but respected the wishes of his father). His dad accused me of taking away all of his hope and his sister and her 15 year old daughter berated me with texts, emails and phone calls.

      I blamed myself. I accepted the blame for four months until intense counselling and support from my family and friends, made me realize the illness took him. I finally blocked them off everything and now they accuse me of keeping his child from them(we have two children, but my youngest is biologically his). I have guilt, yes, thier relationship with her has nothing to do with me but for now she is an innocent child and I do not trust them not to manipulate her or tell her lies. It breaks my heart, but for now, until she is old enough to have and understand personal boundaries, I have set strict limits to telelphone and FaceTime contact only. Or to big family functions(cousins still remain supportive and we r close).

      It kills me. And still today I have to battle the thoughts I have about his choice being my fault.

      At first I didn’t respond, and ignored the letters and messages, and told them I wouldn’t speak with them if they continued to voice the blame they felt for me. The continued crossing of boundaries gave me no other option. Disengaging completely has been difficult, but necessary for my own healing and mental health.

      This kind of behaviour and discharging of hurt makes an already complicated grief worse. I’m sorry we’ve all been here. Much ❤️

  3. Anon
    April 28, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Grieving the death of a loved one by Suicide, on top of having to sort through your already present guilt, and the blame put on you by others is horrific. It’s a burden no one should have to bare.

    My husband died by Suicide almost a year ago. I’ve had to give myself permission to disengage completely from certain family because of their blame, and hurtful words. I was getting physically ill, and mentally I
    Couldn’t tolerate it anymore. I was already blaming myself so I accepted the responsibility initially and then defended my actions-but with help from my counsellor, my family, his cousins, and my best friends, I am working to accept the decisions I made at the time were in the best interest of our children. He had bipolar disorder 1 and had been in manic and mixed psychosis for months prior to his pummel into depression. He still suffered from psychosis in depression but it was more hidden. I lived with and loved this man for 12 years; I knew him and his symptoms of his illness better than anyone. He was no longer in control of himself when he quit taking his medications.

    He was in the hospital the first time he went manic. I was blamed by his sister for her depression. A week later she advised me I needed a break and I allowed her to take my daughter back to her place. When she got home she immediately called me and told me my daughter was happier without me, and I should let her stay home(she was 4 at the time!) because she doesn’t like day care. When he was better we stay d the weekend at her place and she accused me of not liking going to her place because I fell asleep reading with our daughter at bedtime(it used to happen with my son as well… he’s a young adult now). My husband had sided with her and it caused a huge argument in our marriage. Then, knowing how I feel about drugs, and his smoking weed, she continued to bring him pot, and smoke it on our property, lying to my face and disrespecting me.

    Instead I chose to continue to love her. She continued to come to our home and disrespect me in my home, manipulate her brother, and I paid for it emotionally. I wish then I would have said enough.

    She now tells the story of our marriage as though she owns it. Much of it down right lies or only from her perspective.

    There is a long way to go with healing. I’m not yet strong enough to allow them to be in our children’s lives. Though I know now his illness is what killed him, I’m still too vulnerable.

    But I am strong enough to love me first, and disengage completely. I love them.
    I just need to love them from afar this time.

    I hate that others go through this, but also thankful to know I’m not alone. Much love❤️️

  4. Jill
    January 16, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    I find it astonishing how we can find solace in making other people’s lives hell. Reading other people’s stories helps to feel less alone. And helpful to hear about how others have dealt with it.
    I was blamed for my partners suicide attempt, ironically by his ex wife and her friends. His ex wife told everyone in the communicty so when I moved back to the small town where I grew up and where she lives, her friends, people I used to work with professionally, glare at me in public or walk by pretending I don’t exist. Others look at me like I am a murderer, shocked and God only knows what they think, or what she told them. He is severely depressed from a traumatic childhood and I couldn’t fix him and our relationship crumbled under the weight of it.
    A couple of years ago a friend cheated on his wife and I ended up blaming and shunning his new girlfriend. Seeing such hypocritical behaviour in myself is a hard pill to swallow and helps me see a bit into others blame game. We care about our friends and loved ones so it gives us a focus for our pain to blame someone else. It’s more painful to soften and see someone else’s struggle becasue there is often nothing you can do about it. Except to feel it and try to have understanding. Which is really, really hard. So that helps me soften the bitter pill of blame so that I can know we are all in this big mess together, trying to deal with it the best we can. Lotsa love to everyone.

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