- Length: 2 sessions, 5 hours total (each session 2 hrs plus additional 30 minute Q&A)
- Required or Elective*: Required
- Class Format: OnDemand
Available on-demand to take anytime, at your convenience. Includes 5 hours of MP3 recordings (from a live class which includes the questions, comments and interactions of the participants with the instructor) and PDF’s containing 83 pages of detailed handouts.
- Tuition: $150
- Coaching and Mentoring Fee*: $150
- Required Reading*: Spiritual Bypassing, When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters, Robert Augustus Masters, Ph.D.
- Prerequisite: None
- Instructor: Teresa Wagner, MS
- Who Should Attend:
• Anyone who currently feels or has felt guilty about any aspect of their relationship with their animal and would like to come to terms with their guilt and find peace
• Loved ones and professional helpers who would like to learn how to effectively help others who are suffering from guilt
• Though the focus and most of the examples in the class center around our relationship with animals, the concepts and process taught are applicable to any context of feeling guilty.
- Register: Click here to purchase (This link will automatically redirect you to the Animals in our Hearts web site for purchase.)
- Testimonials: Click here
*For Certification Students
Content and Purpose
In over thirty years of providing grief counseling for people who are mourning the loss of their beloved animals, a great majority of them have described feeling guilty about some aspect of their relationship with their animals. Sometimes it centers around their care of their animal during an illness or hospice period. Very often it is about choices regarding euthanasia. Others have described feeling guilty because there were times when they believe they did not do best for their animal in some way during their life together. Additionally, what I’ve seen with numerous clients is that their feeling guilty—even feeling terribly, painfully stuck in guilt—is preferable (consciously or unconsciously) to facing and feeling the overwhelming anguish of their loss. Their guilt may be uncomfortable, but it may also be preferable to facing the deep well of grief which has been kept at bay.
Guilt in any of these forms or others is normal. It honors our ability to question our conscience, to reassess our expectations of our behaviors, our values, morals and beliefs, and to attempt to cope with overwhelming grief. Despite being normal, feeling guilty is a very uncomfortable energy to live with. It can make us feel agitated, anxious, shamed, unfinished with our loss, incomplete with our relationship, and even unworthy. Until we explore and come to terms with our guilt and all the issues surrounding it, it’s impossible to be at peace with ourselves.
Because feeling guilt is so uncomfortable, we often either bury it or wear it like a hair shirt to punish ourselves, rather than fully explore our guilt, learn from it, become a better person for it, and release it, forgiving ourselves and finding peace.
Healthy processing of our guilt can be an extremely life affirming growth process—bringing to our consciousness both our humility, moral clarity, strength and resilience, and an acceptance of ourselves as loving but imperfect beings, who continue to grow, evolve, improve and make new choices for the future.
When we stay stuck in our guilt and do not fully process it, a healthy sense of self is eroded. We may feel humble, but also “bad.” Rather than seeing ourselves as a good person who may have made a mistake or behaved badly, we feel like a bad person undeserving of forgiveness and peace. Staying in such a place serves no one—not the one we believe we have harmed and not ourselves. Staying in such a place diminishes our ability to not only live fully for ourselves but hinders our ability to love others fully.
Getting there is not a simple process, but it is an extremely valuable and powerful one that anyone can learn. This workshop teaches a process to help us walk the path from guilt to peace–consciously, truthfully, gently and lovingly–and can be applied to any situation that has brought forth feelings of guilt. Learning to work through our guilt can have lifelong ramifications for our sense of self-worth and the health of our relationships for the rest of our lives.
Though the focus and examples in the class will be about our relationship with animals, the process you’ll learn is universal and can be applied to any situation where feelings of guilt are involved. Once you’ve taken the class, the process is yours to use the rest of your life, and can be shared with loved ones and clients to help them through their own healing of guilt.
If we are to find peace in healing from our sense of guilt, and to release the energetic burden of guilt, the final step in our healing process must be a willingness to love and accept ourselves as imperfect beings who have erred. This absolutely does not mean condoning what we did, or denying responsibility for what we did. It means allowing ourselves the grace of self-forgiveness, as we continue to evolve, change, improve and grow,
in both consciousness and action.
Session 1: Understanding Our Guilt
- Guidelines for taking care of ourselves while processing guilt
- Feeling guilt is normal, but staying stuck in it is unnecessary
Common situations in our relationships with our animals that can trigger a sense of guilt
Pictures of hearts burdened with guilt
Why we may feel guilty and why we may stay stuck in it
Whatever the reason for our guilt, we can find wisdom and peace
- Defining guilt, the purpose it can serve and types of guilt
- Factors that influence our experiences of guilt:
• Cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs
• Others’ expectations of us and what they say to us
• Our expectations of ourselves and what we say to ourselves
• How we perceive our degree of culpability–intention and control
• Parental and other authority figure influences
- Examining the choices we have to deal with guilt:
• Courageous self-exploration and eventual self-acceptance and self-forgiveness
• Punish ourselves and stay stuck in guilt without any self-exploration
• Escape and bury my feelings without any self-exploration
• Expect, seek or blindly accept absolution from a third party without any self-exploration
• Avoid or escape responsibility for my actions without any self-exploration
- Between Sessions 1 and 2: Read and work through the handouts on The Process for Moving From Guilt to Peace in preparation for the discussion in Session 2
- The Heart of the Program–The Expectations Model
The Process for Moving From Guilt to Peace: A Practical, Step-by-Step, Supportive Approach to Explore, Understand, Heal and Release Our Sense of Guilt
• Clarifying the story of what I feel guilty about and why
• Assessing the soundness of my expectations which underlie my guilt
• Being willing to let of of my sense of guilt if I find my expectations to be unrealistic, unfounded and therefore my guilt unjustified
• Being willing to do the following if I find my expectations to be realistic and founded and therefore my sense of guilt justified:
1. Soul deep assessment of what I’ve learned and want to do differently
2. Make a commitment to integrating this into the fabric of my life
3. Make an apology to the one I believe I have harmed or let down
4. Be willing to forgive myself
- Final reminders: Important principles about guilt that when followed allow healing to occur
- How to support others who are struggling with guilt
- Further Resources About Guilt
There’s not a lot written on healing guilt, and I thought this class filled in that gap. You should write a book, Teresa! I learned that it is very important to assess the soundness of the expectations underlying guilt. Teresa explained everything thoroughly and was very good at answering questions. I could also feel her openness and love when she opened the floor to people’s comments and experiences.
~ Joan Saliskas, Chicago, IL
Teresa Wagner hit a home run with this class. It was priceless! Information provided helped initiate the healing process. Could feel heaviness of guilt begin to lift, replaced by slivers of light entering my heart, representing rays of hope. The art therapy was a symbolic revelation. It was significant to see the heavy grey layer of guilt, blanketing my heart, suffocating the positive emotions of love, joy, hope, empathy, from leaving or entering.
The exercises helped me gain insight, and realize the poor choices I made were not intended to harm Rainbow [my animal] or shorten his life. My judgement was based on conflicting opinions.
My most valuable learning is that we need to forgive ourselves, in order to feel at peace. Moving forward takes time, and everybody heals at different rates. . . it is not all black & white, right or wrong.
Teresa Wagner is a marvelous facilitator. She knows how to elicit self examination. She listens intently. She asks appropriate follow up questions, to dig deeper, and get to the truth. Her style is gentle, empathic, yet persistent. Her years of acquired wisdom and experience as an instructor make her a natural at helping people deal with challenging subjects, such as guilt. Teresa is an expert in her field. Classes were better than I ever anticipated. Now the responsibility is on me, to continue working with the tools she provided, to find the peace I seek.
~ Arlene Millman Huntington NY
I have been working on several guilt issues for a few years and this class brought to light an extremely important factor in assessing my degree of culpability and soundness of my expectations of myself. They are completely different now than they were when the situation occurred
I now have a toolkit to refer back to as I continue to work through other guilt issues. The process is outlined and detailed as is the Expectations Model, which for me was the core of the work
My most significant learning was that forgiveness is not dependent on the wronged ones’
forgiveness, however comforting that may be—you must be able to forgive yourself. Also that
guilt is driven by our beliefs. For me it means that at the time of the scenario that caused my guilt, my belief system was completely different than it is now, yet I have been assessing my
guilt based on my beliefs today.
Teresa is not only extremely educated and brilliant in the subject of guilt…and grief, her soothing voice and understanding of love for animals makes this class a must for anyone suffering from guilt regarding their pet. Her spirituality combined with the science of counseling just resonates with me, comforts me and just makes sense—not just nice words to make me feel better.
~ Annette Holladay Canyon Lake, CA
The class was extremely valuable. The reflective questions in the handouts were very helpful. The biggest of these was the meditation of apology and spending time there. The most significant learning for me were the quotes about expectations and writing them out, then meditating with the animal that passed to speak the apology to them. Teresa always gives a great presentation and explains everything so well and in detail.
~ Holli Shan, Leesburg, VA
The steps are powerful tools to guide me through the process. . .and the way the handouts are set up allows me to fill in details for myself. The definitions and the explanations are clear and helped me to distinguish between what I thought I was responsible for and what I actually was responsible for.
I’ve learned that a lot of what I’ve been trying to do is insert my current self into the past
experience with the knowledge that I have now but didn’t have then. I’ve been berating myself
for decisions and choices I made that I may not make now and for behavior that I thought would
help but that I know now did not. I can’t and won’t continue to do that. I did my best at the time
and that’s all I can expect of myself. I didn’t intend hurt and I can’t go back and change anything.
And I’m okay with that. I’m sorry that it worked out as it did so I do have regret. But I no longer
Teresa’s preparation and the depth of detail you provide for just a four hour class is incredible and so valuable! Her gentle hand with all of the participants is a huge factor in the success of this class for me. And your depth of knowledge of the subject and your experience are what made it valuable for me. I can’t see getting as much from a class like this if it were taught by anyone else.
Regarding helping others with guilt, what I learned, from the handouts, but mostly from Teresa’s interactions [with class participants], was that the client must come to their own place of understanding and that the role of counselor is really facilitator and gentle guide to help them get to that place.
~ Rhonda Perkins, Atlanta, GA
Anyone who really cares about their companion animals will most likely have some guilt about something because we want the best and want to do the best for our animals. My most significant learning from the class is that even though I have done things I’m not proud of, I am still a good person. Also, to learn from mistakes made in the past and not to let them happen again.
The information in the handouts helps to identify the what and why of the things that need work and gives information on how to work through the issues. It also was a very big help hearing what other people have dealt with and are still working through and thoughts and questions they had regarding their situations. I’m still working through the issues, but I feel that I now have the tools to continue the process.
Teresa would go through a section of the material and then stop to get input from the class on that section and give us the ability to ask questions. She was also extremely respectful, calm, and patient, and had wonderful input and responses to thoughts and questions. There was one time when someone else might be defensive because of something said by a class member, but Teresa handled the situation with amazing calm and grace. She also let anyone who had comments or questions finish their thoughts and didn’t rush them through their process, but still managed to keep the class on schedule and get through the material – pretty amazing!
~ Leigh Stroebel, Hillsboro OR
This is the first time I’ve read extensively about this incredibly important subject.
Training for the [grief counseling] certification, after I read all the material in this class and thought about it, I realized that virtually EVERYONE who’s lost a pet probably suffers from some degree of guilt, so it will be a common subject during counseling.
I carry some deep guilt about a dog I believe I euthanized too soon due to the ‘influence’ of someone I trusted. I truly thought I’d never forgive myself for this . . . [but] I have moved to the point of regret and disappointment in myself. I acted in a way that’s not typical of how my soul and heart would have me behave. It was a powerful learning experience. NO one can affect how you feel about euthanasia; I will never allow this again.
Teresa, I know how hard it is to create a class from your brain onto paper. Your handouts are outstanding! I love the quotes you put it in – I find myself putting asterisks on so many pages to read again. The examples of real clients you’ve dealt with are especially helpful to me. I appreciate seeing how you handled different situations. The exercises forced me to look deeper into myself and I didn’t like everything I saw.
The example of your client who had gone to the movies while her dog died was really valuable to me. As a counselor in training, I know I’m going to deal with a lot of guilt; seeing how you dealt with her using many emphatic inquires was so helpful.
You know you have the most melodious voice and your enunciation is perfect. You speak slowly enough that I’m sure the whole class could keep up with the information You kept the class right on track, covering the most salient points.
~ Lynne Lohmeier, Ph.D., Gautier, MS
Exaggerated self blame creates and perpetuates on going emotional upset and blocks constructive motivation to change, the ability to move on to experience peace.
~ John Wilson, The Posttraumatic Self, Ph.D.