I’ll start by saying all my guilts have now changed to regrets.
Regret is for decisions that had bad outcomes when you had no reason to expect them. Guilt is for decisions that resulted in bad outcomes when you should have expected them. Most or all of us here shouldn’t have guilt.
There are so many emotions to deal with when losing a loved one so suddenly and tragically. I worked on the feeling of guilt continuously and there were many times when I thought I’d sorted it out, but the guilt would return again and again.
Many people told me “It wasn’t your fault” “You didn’t know” “Hindsight is cruel” or “ You did your best with what you knew at the time.” People wanted to change how I felt – and yes, their comments did help me to feel better in the short term. I shoved guilt into the corner of my mind thinking I’d dealt with it, but I hadn’t because here’s the thing, no one else can change how you or I feel. Only we can change that.
In the past, I‘ve told others who are trying to deal with their guilt and heal their broken hearts, “Guilt is huge. Don’t go there. If you allow it entrance, it will block every forward step you attempt.” But I have just spent a week at the ocean, digging deep into my own feelings and emotions, and I have concluded I have to allow guilt entrance. I sense now, that it is something I may never work all the way through.
For now, guilt is gone but regret has moved in and seems to be staying.
There is so much I regret – so many things I would have changed. If only I’d listened more, opened my eyes, and seen what I didn’t see. My son asked me to stay with him another day, only weeks before he died. I said I couldn’t. I had to get back to work.
So many little things become huge for a mother who is trying to process such a traumatic loss. These regrets will stay with me forever. These feelings can’t be fixed, but I do have a choice about how I carry these feelings and what I do with the feeling of regret. I started by forgiving myself. I forgive myself for being human.
I have now accepted it. I have spent many hours processing it. I’ve integrated it. It’s now part of who I am. It’s changed who I am. I will use these regrets to become a better version of myself – a better educator to my grandchildren. I will feel these regrets and still be a healthy, functioning, well-adjusted person. I will not let these regrets define how I live the rest of my life.
I feel regret, and that’s ok……really.