Regret can besiege us with a multitude of destructive emotions when someone dies. There are plenty of negative feelings such as self-blame, anger, sadness, guilt, and others. When dealing with regret at the loss of a loved one, we shouldn’t take anything too personally on ourselves because the passing of someone special sends shockwaves through every aspect of our lives. Some people cope better than others with the tragic loss of a loved one and using some of the techniques they’ve mastered makes it easier.
Dealing with Regret, Grief, and Loss: 6 Ways to Cope with It
#1. Honor Their Memory
If you have a regret about something in the way you treated someone, instead of hurting over it, use it as a heartfelt apology. When dealing with regret, you can’t do much to change the past, but you can take steps to leap over the same pitfall in the future. When 23-year old Jacob Skaj lost his father to congestive heart failure, he felt a heavy burden of regrets. He had not been getting along with his mother and father at the time.
The loss of his father made him realize the value of his parents. Moreover, he realized that he still had a mother he could cherish and honor with love. This way, he’d be honoring his father as well because that’s what he would’ve wanted most. Jacob reconciled with his mother and started visiting her at least two times a week. The heavy burden of regret soon began to lift, and he felt better.
#2. Guard Yourself Against Destructive Decisions You Will Regret Later
After someone has passed away, the understandable urge to do something irrational can pop up, and you want to step around this problem as soon as possible. Try not to be hard on yourself. Instead, this becomes a good time to surround yourself with friends and family. You want to take as many measures as possible to protect yourself against making a poor choice. Those without immediate support can receive help through other methods. For example, if you really need help, you can call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you just want someone to share your grief with, you can join a support group for the loss of loved ones.
#3. Focus on the Future: Avoid If-Only Thinking
Regret comes in a variety of forms, but dealing with regret often means focusing on the future and present. When you start to think, “If only I had not left for a walk, I might have been there.” Or “If only I had listened to my child when she told me she couldn’t take much more.” Having the if-only mindset will set you in a pattern of victimization. Unfortunately, we cannot change the past, but we can welcome the future with open arms. When you focus on the more positive elements of your life, it mitigates feelings of loss and regret.
As human beings, we have limited capacities, and many times, there was nothing we could do in the face of insurmountable odds. We could not see the consequences, so it’s okay to let go of the regret.
#4. Forgive Yourself
No matter what happened between you and your loved one, one of the best things you can do is to forgive yourself. When dealing with regret, you have to let it go so that you can feel happy again. With the person gone, you will have to make amends without them. Researchers even found that people who forgave healed much faster. However, forgiveness comes with a catch. Before you can truly forgive, you must first grieve. If that scares you, having support from a family member or close friend can go a long way. Even seeking help from a therapist can release bottled up emotions.
#5. Understand the Nature of It: Regret Can Be Harder Than Grief
Sometimes you encounter numerous stages in the healing process. Dealing with regret differs from dealing with grief, and in many cases, regret debilitates a person more. With grief, the person mourns their loss, but in regret, they mourn, and they feel sad for something that never happened. It failed to happen because they couldn’t or wouldn’t let it happen. With grief, you eventually get through it, but many times, regrets return to haunt you. Once you understand that, letting go of regret will always be up to the person hanging onto it.
#6. Letters to Heaven
Experiencing loss does not get easier with age, and many children who lost parents at the age of 13 can still distinctly remember it with eyes full of tears at 36. One of the ways to cope and let go of harmful emotions becomes about transcending the wall between you and your loved one. To do this, you only have to write a letter to your loved one expressing yourself and how you feel.
Once you have finished writing it, you seal it in an envelope and take it to the resting place of your loved one. You can write down everything you never said to him while alive. You can also express your concerns and regrets at his passing. If you’re concerned the letter will be read by someone else, you can sign it as anonymous or under a nickname. The main point behind this technique is how it lets you say what you never got the chance to say to your loved one, and having that opportunity goes a long way in releasing regrets.
Summing It Up
Dealing with regret is not uncommon after a loved one passes away. Many people experience this, so it’s a fairly universal part of the grieving process. When you understand this, you don’t have to beat yourself up over what you did or didn’t do towards the end. Give yourself time to recover because everyone copes differently. Have you ever lost someone you loved deeply? If so, what did you do to get around the pain and suffering? If you just lost someone recently and feel regretful, we invite you to try the techniques mentioned in this article.