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Grief, Guilt, & Regrets

Something that truly breaks my heart is when I talk with grievers who are dealing with guilt and regrets after a loved one dies.

They share how they felt they could have prevented the death of their loved one, or they had an argument (or regret) right before their loved one’s death.

Some never had an opportunity to make things right with their loved one…or say, “I’m sorry”…or…”I love you.

I also talk to other grievers who feel guilty for words left unspoken or not getting a second chance to say what was truly on their heart.

Some weren’t sure how to feel after a family member or friend’s death because the relationship was complicated (I’ll be writing about this topic – Complicated Grief – in an upcoming blog post).

I can genuinely relate to the pain of each of these situations.

I’ve been through times of grief where my guilt and regrets competed with my grief. It’s a terrible, agonizing feeling.

A few examples:

Right before my sister passed away, she and I got into an argument over something incredibly dumb. We very rarely argued so this particular incident was hurtful to the both of us. We both said things we ended up regretting. She was so mad, we didn’t talk for over a week. I ended up sending her flowers with a card that told her I was sorry and I missed her…but in my hurt and pride, I did not write the words, “I love you” on the card.

I’m grateful we worked the situation out before she died, but, boy, did this situation torment me for several years after she had passed away.

The guilt was thick…and my regrets ran deep. I asked myself a thousand times, “Why did you not tell her you loved her on that card?”…”Why didn’t you realize how sick she was or visit her in the hospital?”

I had told my sister I loved her tons of times throughout her life, and several times after that incident…we were best friends. And there’s no way I, or anyone else, could’ve realized how sick she was…she was only sick for a few weeks with what seemed to be seasonal allergies before she died. But after someone we love dies, we truly can balloon up every guilt and regret we have to a much bigger level.

Another situation of guilt and regret had deeply affected me a few years before my sister’s death:

I had a boyfriend who was going on a trip with friends. He came over to my house the night before he was to leave and told me he was considering calling off going…all I had to do was say the word. Not wanting to keep him from having fun, I told him I wasn’t going to tell him what to do…but I encouraged him to have a good time. We had plans the weekend after he was to get back so I explained we could spend time together then.

I’ll never forget my mom coming into my room with tears streaming down her face. She turned on the TV in my bedroom, and that’s when I saw on the news that my boyfriend had died while on his trip. Within half an hour, two of his best friends came over to my house to tell me what I already knew.

Seeing my mom’s tears, his friends faces…and especially seeing his mom at the funeral…left me with more guilt than I could handle. Why didn’t I tell him to stay?

It was several years before I had the ability to forgive myself for both of these situations.

I also had a lot of regrets to work through after a loved one committed suicide.

Guilt and regrets don’t just occur after a loved one’s death…they can also surface in many life situations: an event that destroys lives, adultery, poor decisions, parenting mistakes, estranged relationships, health/disability choices, a bad career move, abortion, unspoken grief events, not making wise life, marriage, or family choices, etc.

I know many people who struggle with deep guilt and regret from similar situations…stemming from both death and life decisions…or feeling as though they could’ve prevented a tragedy from happening…or unspoken words to loved ones who have passed on…or arguments and conflicts that never got resolved…or deep regrets from not communicating in a better way…or suicide issues…or holding back affection…or – and this is a big one – playing the tortuous game of “If only” and “I wish I would’ve”…etc.

So what do you do with regrets and guilt that torment you?

A few things that helped me significantly (and these may help you too):
1. Talking to God about the guilt and regrets and asking Him to heal your broken heart.
2. Asking God to ask loved ones for their forgiveness and asking Him to tell them how much you love and miss them.
3. Realizing that your loved one totally forgives you…In Heaven, they are not holding anything against anyone that had been said or done on earth. What once upset them here does not even remotely upset them in Heaven. They have forgiven others … and they truly want their loved ones to forgive themselves and live a purpose-filled, lovely life.
4. Writing your loved one a note about the situation then shredding it. As you shred it, imagine the situation being completely finished.
5. Forgiving yourself and realizing everyone is fallible. Hindsight is always 20/20. If each person would’ve known better, they totally would’ve done better. 100%! Our loved ones would want for us to know that they would’ve done better too.
6. I made it a priority to learn valuable lessons from my guilt and regrets. This isn’t always easy…but the lessons are there.
7. I chose and made a commitment not to ever repeat the same mistakes from this day forward. As you learn, you grow. Nobody will ever be perfect, but we can choose to continually improve ourselves daily.

I learned through guilt and regrets powerful lessons can be learned. I learned through the first situation to use my words much more carefully, to work out problems quickly, and to forgive others and myself…I also learned to say, “I love you,” to my loved ones more frequently. As a result, I am now very mindful of how I treat my loved ones and consistently treat them as well as I possibly can. I also am very mindful of considering the cost of any decisions I make.

I also learned life is precious. People can be here today and gone tomorrow. I do my best to not take loved ones – or life – for granted.

Grieving is tough. Navigating guilt and regrets is hard. But God is in the details and is willing to bring healing – if you look to Him.

God was so good to show me two Bible verses that gently hugged my broken heart and brought it back to life:

Psalms‬ ‭139:16‬,Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.”

Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:39‬, “See now that I alone am He; there is no God but Me. I bring death and I give life… No one can rescue anyone from My hand.”

Every day of my loved ones’ lives – their birth date and their death date – were pre-planned. I didn’t have the power to prevent tragedy.

God also surprised me with a bittersweet revelation: since Heaven is the ultimate goal…I could emotionally release my loved ones, my guilt and regrets, and all of my feelings to God and be thankful for blessing my loved ones with the gift of living with Him in paradise. Blaming myself was futile too…none of my loved ones would come back to earth if given the choice.

Guilt and regrets are agonizing when we look at things from an earthly perspective. When we look at things from an eternal perspective, that’s where we find healing.

If you are in the valley of guilt and regrets, I encourage you to pour your heart out to God. You have carried the guilt long enough. Carrying guilt and regrets may make you feel as though you are atoning for what happened in the past, but there is a better way: take your broken heart, guilt, and regrets to God, lay them in His loving hands, and ask Him to take these burdens from you. He has the power and ability to lift them as He truly heals your heart.

We cannot do anything about the past…but we can learn valuable lessons and choose to do better from this day forward.

God wants to take all of the heavy burdens life throws at us…and we continually need to allow Him to.

Life is precious! We need to spend time recovering our life, as much as we seek to recover from grief, guilt, and regrets.

I pray God truly and genuinely heals everybody’s heart who is going through guilt and regrets.

Gratitude, healing, & many blessings,

Kim

©2019 Grief Bites. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

⭐️For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5

6. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Happy New Year!: http://bible.com/r/3Zv

7. ❤️NEW!❤️Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus

⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is copyright protected material. Please ask for permission to copy, use, or print.

⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to encourage others by sharing our personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or qualified pastor for guidance and advice.

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The Life Lesson You Won’t Want To Wait To Learn

There I was…sitting in a college classroom.

My books neatly stacked, pen and paper out to take notes, as I waited for my professor to start her lecture on the material that would be on the final exam in a few days.

It took everything in me to be present in class that day. My sister had just died six days earlier, and her funeral was the day before this particular class. And just a few weeks before my sister’s death, my other sister’s fiancé (who was also one of my best friends) had died. It was a small miracle I made it out of bed, but I didn’t want the whole semester to be wasted.

As I prepared to listen to my professor’s review, a girl sat right next to me.

This young lady began complaining to me (and the guy sitting next to us) for the next 10 minutes about her job, getting up early to make it to class, her boyfriend buying her the wrong color of roses over the weekend, and she complained about the manicure she had just gotten.

Then she complained about something that pierced my heart: she complained about having to go on vacation over Christmas break with her parents and sister.

Out of all of the mornings I had decided to arrive early to class, this was a day I wished I had slept in.

A mere month before, the young lady’s complaining would have gone in one ear and out the other. I would’ve thought, “wow…this girl is having a bad week.”

This particular morning though, I wanted to tell her – more like scream at her – how lucky she was to have both parents alive…lucky to have her sister to go on vacation with…blessed to have a boyfriend who bought her roses…and her fingernails…really?!…fingernails are something to complain about just because one chipped!? I thought, “wow…this girl needs some serious perspective!”

Sitting in that classroom, I wished my greatest problem was something as vain as a fingernail that could be fixed within half an hour. I wished my sister had her fiancé still here to buy her roses…she would’ve been grateful for any color. I wished I could go on a vacation…any vacation…with my sister and dad again. Instead, I was wondering how our family was going to make it through the grief and storm we were just catapulted into.

The fact is, grief deeply changes you. You see things so very differently!

It truly is like life is a glass “window” that has always been covered in thick glittery paint. Grief comes along and power washes all of the paint and glitter away.

…But having all of the thick glitter washed away doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Once you experience deep grief, and all of the glitter is washed away, you see people, things, and life – everything – much more clearly.

I’m not trying to be hard on the girl. I bet everything she was complaining about made perfect sense to her. It would’ve made perfect sense to me a few weeks earlier.

To be fair, I wonder how many times I have complained about trivial things to someone who was going through grief or a major life challenge?

And the bigger question:

How many blessings have I missed in life – especially pre-grief – due to not having a proper perspective or the ability to see a bigger picture?

The fact is, every “problem” we may have is an absolute lost “blessing” someone else deeply misses:

•The man or woman who is struggling to get along with their spouse? Someone else only wishes they could bring their spouse back from Heaven or back from divorce. Some are single and have never found love or marriage yet at all.

The job we may absolutely hate? Someone else has recently been laid off or disabled and would love to have their job back.

The child who is rebelling or making poor choices? Someone else would give everything they own just to have one more minute with their deceased child. Others have never been granted the privilege and gift of being a parent.

The person who complains about the wrong haircut, a bad manicure, or “having to go to the gym”? Someone else is in a hospital fighting cancer or battling another illness. They only wish they still had their hair or the energy to go run or workout again.

The person who complains about “having to go see their family,”…how long they have to stay at family gatherings and holidays…or who complains about their parents, siblings, children, extended family or in-laws? Someone else would give everything they own to have the luxury of having any family members at all. Family is a true gift – an EXTRAVAGANT gift – even if they (or we) don’t always act like one!

There are many more scenarios I could list of all the ways, and all of the people and things, we each take for granted or complain about. The opportunities and scenarios are unending.

Note: I’m not downplaying life challenges, difficult family members or challenging people, because life challenges and difficult people are always there and can be very painful. I, myself, have been guilty of complaining about people, things, and life events. I think we all have.

Once we truly put life in proper perspective though, and gain gratefulness in each area, the problems won’t seem near as big, annoying, inconvenient, or insurmountable.

We’ll find that some things in life are not quite the tragedy or crisis we make them out to be.

No matter what, at the end of the day, life is a tremendous gift! We may have to change our perspective, but life truly is.

Take some time today to truly see your blessings. Choose to continually create a grateful heart and genuinely appreciate each family member, person, gift, experience, opportunity, and modern day convenience we each are SO VERY blessed to have in our lives.

I have found that it seriously is a choice.

Rinse off the thick paint of the “window of life,” developing proper perspective, so you are clearly able to see, appreciate, and enjoy life…and the loved ones you have…to your best ability!

Don’t wait for life – or grief – to teach you a most painful lesson: The ability to see your pre-grief life with crystal clear perspective…to clearly see all of the treasure you once had in your life and held in your hand!

Learn this most important life lesson today…right now. Like great treasure in your hand, never allow perspective, blessings, or time to fall through your fingers. Life is precious. Family and good friends are a treasure. Time is a gift.

You may have already experienced a major loss or great grief. Perhaps you are currently going through a tragedy or crisis and life may not feel like a gift today.

Take the time to be kind to your heart. Even if it’s just baby steps, you truly can make it through.💗

🌺Encouraging quotes:

To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” ~Stephen R. Covey

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.” ~Charles Richards

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” ~Oprah Winfrey

“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” ~Oscar Wilde

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” ~Stephen Vincent Benét

“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity.” ~Hazel Lee

“If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance.” ~Andrea Boydston

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2018 Grief Bites. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

⭐️For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

5. Experiencing The Holidays With Jesus: Christmas (available November 2018) http://bible.com/r/3V5

⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is copyright protected material. Please ask for permission to copy, use, or print.

⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to encourage others by sharing our personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or qualified pastor for guidance and advice.**