Regret is an unavoidable part of life. There will always be something we wish we had done or said differently. When it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one, regret is a common part of the grieving process. There is never enough time spent with the ones we care for.
Whether your loved one’s death came about suddenly or was expected, there will always be things you wish you had said or done. However, living with regret will eventually wear you down. At some point you must learn to move on from the past and let go of your regret.
Regret and guilt are two emotions closely tied together. Guilt is the feeling you experience when you believe you have done something wrong and feel bad about it. Regret is wishing you had done something differently in your past. You may feel guilty for something you have done or said, and regret having done or said it. When you lose a loved one, there are many reasons you may feel guilt or regret.
Friends and family don’t always get along. Sometimes we disagree and say things we don’t mean or do things to one another that are unkind. It’s natural to have arguments within your relationships. If you had an argument with your recently deceased loved one, you may regret something you said or did.
Now that they’ve passed, you’ve lost your opportunity to apologize or make amends. The reality that you cannot take back the words you said or the action you took is frustrating. You may regret or feel guilty for the way you left things with the deceased.
You may feel regret over losing your chance to tell your loved one how you felt about them. Maybe you feel as if you never got a chance to tell them how much you appreciate them, or maybe there was something you wanted to share with them.
You may also regret not having asked them something important that you wanted to. Now that your loved one has passed, their knowledge and memories have passed with them.
It’s difficult to know when a loved one will take their last breath. Though we want to be there with our loved ones when they pass, it’s not always possible. You may feel regretful that you couldn’t be with your friend or family member when they died.
Maybe you wanted to be there but couldn’t because of a job or other circumstance. Regardless, you wish you had made the time to say your final goodbye. Missing your chance to say goodbye is one of the most difficult regrets to live with.
It’s not unusual to feel self blame after death of a loved one. Whether or not it’s rational, you may believe that you are responsible in some way for your loved one’s death. Maybe you feel as if you were not attentive enough to their needs that caused their health to falter.
Maybe you blame yourself for causing the accident that led to their death. Or maybe you think that if you had spent more time with them, they would still be here today.
Anyone can feel the pain of regret after someone dies, especially if they were close to them. Feeling regret after loss is common among close family members and close friends. Friends and family of the deceased will always wish they had more time with their loved one. There is almost always something they wished they had said or done differently. Regret after death may be more apparent in families who lived far away and could not see the deceased much while they were alive.
The family may feel remorse for not visiting more often or taking time out of their day to keep in touch. Regret after death of a loved one is something most of us deal with. Though it is normal to feel regretful for things we did or didn’t do, harboring regret long term can eat away at our spirit. Holding on to regret over things we cannot change impedes our growth and keeps us stuck in the past.
Feeling regret after the death of a loved one is not something you should ignore. Regret is a powerful emotion that can teach us important lessons. But if you let your regret consume you, it can begin to negatively impact your personal life. Learning how to deal with your regret in a healthy way will help you overcome your grief more effectively. Read below for 10 tips for dealing with regret after a loved one dies.
Find a journal or piece of paper and write down a list of the things you regret not doing or saying while your loved one was alive. List everything you can think of that has been on your mind. Writing is a way of expressing your inner thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes the physical act of expressing our thoughts on paper helps us to relieve our mind of clutter. Writing down your regrets can symbolize offloading your burden. Instead of your regrets living inside of you, they can now exist on paper.
You can continue your writing exercise by writing down any thoughts or feelings that exist alongside your regrets. Write down your feelings on why you feel regretful about the items on your list. What do you wish you had done differently and why? Next, you can write down what you wish you had done instead.
Envision the perfect scenario where you did what you believe would have been the right thing. It may help you to feel closer to your loved one if you can imagine an alternate reality where they knew how you truly felt for them.
It may help you to express your feelings better by writing a letter to the deceased. You can say whatever you would like to in your letter. If you want to apologize or make amends, do so in your letter. The act of writing and openly expressing your feelings may help you to relieve some of your mental burden.
Though your deceased loved one is not physically here to read your letter, write the letter as if they were still here with you. If it helps, believe that in some strange way they can read your letter from the afterlife.
By writing your letter as if your loved one can hear you, it can help you to feel connected to them. After you’ve written your letter, you can do what you like with it.
Consider storing it away somewhere safe so you can look at it when you want to feel closer to your loved one. You might also consider burying your letter or burning it as a spiritual symbol of letting go of your regrets.
If you’re feeling regret after loss, it may help you to imagine what the deceased would say to you if they were alive. Very often we imagine our situation to be much worse than it is.
For example, you may believe that you were a terrible friend for not calling your deceased loved one more often when they were living. You feel regretful about it now and wish you had called more often or found another way to reach out. In your mind you may believe that your friend also thought of you as a terrible person. You might think that they died without knowing how much they really meant to you.
But because you cannot speak to your deceased friend now, there’s no way to know how they truly felt. However, it’s very likely that your assumptions are wrong. If your friend was a caring and loving person, they would understand how you feel. They would likely tell you that they never thought of you as a bad person and that they knew you cared for them.
Your deceased loved one would not want you to feel consumed by regret or guilt. They would want you to move on with your life and let them rest in peace.
Once you’ve acknowledged your regrets, acknowledge that you are not a perfect person. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Understand that you are not the only person to have ever felt regret after death of a loved one. It’s important to recognize your mistakes and acknowledge your wrongs.
But you should also recognize when it’s time to let yourself be forgiven. You deserve love and compassion just as much as anyone else. You deserve to be able to move on from your mistakes, whether or not you were able to make amends.
Beating yourself up over your mistakes does not change the past. The mistakes you’ve made cannot be changed. What’s done is done. But what you can do is learn from your mistakes.
You can take the knowledge you’ve gained and act differently in the future. However, you must first learn to forgive yourself to move forward.
You cannot change the past, but you can learn from your mistakes and lead a better life. Make amends for your regrets by choosing to make better life choices going forward. If you feel regret for not telling the deceased how much you appreciate them, make a point to tell those in your life right now how much you appreciate them.
If you feel regret for acting unkind or judging the deceased too harshly, make amends by working on yourself and your attitude. Learn to become a more understanding person. Approach relationships and situations from a more understanding place.
If you feel regret for not being there for the deceased when they needed you, be there for the people in your life now. Make time for your loved ones and make a point to reach out to them more often. Become the person you wish you had been when your loved one was still living.
While your actions today can’t change what you did in the past, becoming a better person helps to improve your present and future. We are all worthy of forgiveness, especially when we make attempts to learn from our past mistakes.
When you’re harboring feelings of regret or guilt after the death of a loved one, it’s easy to over think your situation. You replay your mistakes over and over in your head. You may believe you behaved so poorly and are the worst person ever. If you took a moment to get out of your head and reassess your situation, you’d find that’s not the case.
Maybe you feel regretful for not being by your loved one’s side when they passed. You feel as if you should have moved mountains to be with them. But if you look at the reality of your situation, you know that’s not possible.
Maybe you had other family obligations to attend to, like taking care of a child. If you had left your child’s side, then your child would have been neglected. What you did was the right thing to do in your situation, even if it wasn’t an ideal outcome.
Many of the mistakes you believe you made regarding your loved one’s passing would be forgiven or understood by the deceased. Sometimes we judge ourselves too harshly for our mistakes. We must understand that there are no perfect answers in life. All we can do is do the best we can with what we are given.
Many religious and spiritual faiths view death not as the end but as a new beginning. They believe that death is not the end for the deceased, that they live on in spirit or are reincarnated. Some religious or spiritual faiths believe that it is possible to share a connection with the deceased through thoughts, prayer, or dreams.
If you are having a difficult time dealing with regret after someone dies, it may help you to explore your spirituality. If you believe that you and your deceased loved one are still connected, you can find comfort in knowing they are still with you.
You may consider taking a moment to apologize or make your amends with them. Do this by finding time to sit by yourself and imagine you were speaking with the deceased. Either in your head or speaking out loud, say what you would like to say to them. Imagine they can hear you, even though they are no longer on our plane of existence.
Though they are not physically here with you, they are in spirit. If you believe in life after death, then you may find comfort in knowing your loved one’s spirit is alive and knows how you feel.
Speaking up about how you feel is an important step to healing and moving past your grief and feelings of regret. When you express yourself to other people, they can provide you with their feedback. Other people can help you see your situation from a different perspective.
Talking about your feelings may help you cope better with your grief and regret. Find a counselor you can speak to about your grief and how you are dealing with your regrets. A professional who specializes in listening to others may have better insight.
You might also consider joining a support group for grief. Being surrounded by other people who are going through what you are going through can be helpful. You can share your own struggles as well as hear the struggles of others.
Knowing that you are not alone in your grief and feelings of regret is comforting. A support group might help you feel less alone and can be a good avenue for expressing your feelings.
If your loved one had a unique cause they believed in or if they passed from a particular disease or condition, consider volunteering in their honor. For example, if your loved one passed due to Alzheimer’s disease, consider volunteering at a home for Alzheimer’s patients.
By putting yourself into action, it can help you take your mind off of your grief. It can also help you feel as if you are doing something to make amends for your regrets. Action is the best course for relieving your mind of burdens.
Check online or check with your local church group to help you find somewhere you can volunteer. If you can’t volunteer because you are physically unable, consider donating instead. Donating is still a physical act that helps other people in need. It can be another way to honor your deceased loved one.
Maybe you could not be there with your loved one while they were living but you can honor them in their death. Find a way to honor your deceased loved one to help keep their memory alive. Honoring your loved one is a way to show how important they were to you and others.
It can help you feel as if you are doing something to right your wrongs. Honor your loved one by organizing a special memorial service for them. Reach out to friends and family and ask them to join you in a candlelight vigil for the deceased.
Bringing others together who also shared a special bond with the deceased can be healing. Together you can share your memories of the deceased as well as any regrets you may have.
You can find comfort in knowing that if the deceased were living, they would appreciate having those they loved most gathered together in honor of their life. Additionally, you may find comfort in finding other ways to honor your loved one.
Remembrance jewelry or memorial jewelry are unique ways to carry the memory of your loved one with you always. Remembrance jewelry comes in many different forms including cremation jewelry, fingerprint jewelry, photo engraved jewelry, and handwriting jewelry.
Cremation jewelry is jewelry that houses a small amount of your deceased loved one’s remains. Choose from cremation pendant necklaces, rings, and more. Each piece of jewelry or keepsake can be self-filled with a small portion of your loved one’s ashes.
Ashes into jewelry is a type of cremation jewelry that incorporates your loved one’s ashes into the design of the jewelry. Ashes are mixed within the jewelry stone or metal to create a beautiful piece of memorial jewelry. Cremation jewelry allows you to keep a small part of your loved one with you wherever you go.
Fingerprint jewelry incorporates your loved one’s fingerprint onto the jewelry piece itself. Your loved one’s fingerprint is laser engraved onto the jewelry pendant, ring, or jewelry keepsake.
Fingerprint jewelry allows you to hold the most unique part of your deceased loved one, their fingerprint. It may help you to feel closer to your loved one knowing you have something that was so unique to them.
A photo engraved pendant necklace incorporates your loved one’s image onto an elegant piece of jewelry or jewelry keepsake. Our jewelry designers take your favorite photo of your loved one and laser engrave the image onto your jewelry piece. Photo engraved jewelry allows you to carry your favorite image of your loved one with you always.
If you have a special note, letter, or signature written by your deceased loved one, consider handwriting jewelry. Handwriting jewelry engraves your loved ones handwriting onto a jewelry pendant or keepsake. Though your loved one is no longer around, you can keep their memory alive by memorializing a part of them.
Honor your loved one’s memory by creating a special photo collage or scrapbook of your loved one. Find photographs of your loved one and you together and photos of your loved one throughout their life.
Put them together in a collage or scrapbook that will beautifully display the photos to honor their memory. You can look at your collage or scrapbook whenever you are missing them.
If you were not the recipient of your loved one’s ashes, ask the recipient if you can have a small portion of your loved one’s ashes. It may help you to grieve and process your emotions to have a part of them with you.
Place their ashes in a special keepsake urn to help you memorialize their memory. Place the keepsake urn on display somewhere you can look at it whenever you are missing them.
Consider organizing a charity or starting a GoFundMe to honor your deceased loved one. You can put the charity or GoFundMe in their name and dedicate it to a special cause they cared about. If they passed because of a specific illness or condition, you could organize the charity or GoFundMe around that.
The money and proceeds you collect can be given to other people who are going through the same illness or experiencing the same troubles your loved one faced. By organizing a charity in their name, you are creating a legacy for them to be remembered by.
Check your local church, community center, or ask your therapist for information on support group meetings in your area. You may also be able to find information about support groups at your local library or by asking friends and family members. If you can’t or don’t want to attend a support group in person, consider online support groups. Online support groups connect you with people and grief counselors from the comfort of your own home. Below are some links for online grief support groups that may be helpful:
Books for Dealing with Grief and Regret
There are plenty of books written about grief and how to cope with regret after a loss. Reading is a great way to absorb new information and internally process your own thoughts. Below are some links to suggestions for books on grief and regret:
Ask your doctor or physician if they have resources for coping with the loss of a loved one. They may have grief workbooks or information pamphlets that can help you. Your doctor or physician may also be able to lead you in the right direction towards getting help. They may have info on grief support groups or be able to refer you to a trusted counselor or therapist who specializes in grief.
Consider speaking to your clergy, priest, or trusted religious figure. Religion can be a powerful way to help us cope with our troubles. It is especially helpful for when we are dealing with regret after a death. Confessing or being able to voice your feelings to a servant of God can be comforting. You may feel closer to God and your loved one. It may also help you forgive yourself for the feelings of regret you are having.
A grief retreat is an organized event or trip that brings grieving people together in one place. The event is organized as a means of helping grieving individuals heal. Most events are held in places that are away from environmental stressors such as city noise. Grief retreats incorporate relaxing activities like meditation, yoga, and hiking to help with quieting the mind of intrusive thoughts. They also commonly feature grief counselors who hold group meetings to help retreat guests talk about their feelings. A grief retreat can be an immersive helpful way to overcome your feelings of regret. Below are links for finding a grief retreat that’s right for you.
When you are deep in the throes of grief and regret, all you can think of is what you did wrong. You may replay your mistakes over and over until all you can see is what you did wrong. But when you only focus on the negative, you forget the things you did right. Yes, you made mistakes, but you likely did many more things right than you realize.
What truly counts is the way you treated your loved one throughout their life, not only near the time of your loved one’s death. Maybe you did not call your loved one as often as you should have towards the end of their life. But what about all the times you were a shoulder to cry on when they were upset?
What about the times you were there for them when they needed you most? What about all the wonderful memories you shared with them and the fun times you both had together? What you did right should not be forgotten. When you are coping with regret after loss of a loved one, focus on positive memories. It’s the positive memories your loved one cherished the most and what they would have remembered you for.
It is easy to memorialize the deceased in a way in which they could do no wrong. When our loved one’s pass, we remember only the good parts of them. In our minds we may immortalize them as if they were a martyr not capable of making mistakes. While no one wants to speak ill of the dead, it’s important to remember that they were not perfect themselves. You might feel regretful that you did not call the deceased as often as you should have, but maybe there was a reason you didn’t call. Maybe your loved one had a difficult personality that made communicating with them a chore.
Maybe you feel remorse over something hurtful you said to the deceased. However, maybe it’s true that they said something hurtful to you as well. Understand that in most relationships there are no innocent partners. You may feel regretful for the way you treated your deceased loved one, but they may be in some way responsible themselves. Recognize that you may both be to blame and that you are both equally deserving of forgiveness.
Regret is common after the death of a loved one and is often part of the grieving process. Unfortunately, life is unexpected. We never feel as if we have enough time with the people we love. When our loved ones die, there is much we wish we had said or done differently. Once they’ve passed, we miss our chance. It’s normal to feel regret or guilt after the passing of a loved one. It’s something most of us deal with and nothing to feel ashamed of.
There is no one right way to grieve or deal with feelings of regret after the death of a loved one. However, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to talk about your feelings. Internalizing your regret or guilt will only prolong your negative feelings. Expressing your emotions helps you in your healing process. Vocalizing your feelings helps others understand you better and allows others to share their input. When we communicate our struggles, others can understand how to help us better.
If you can’t let go of regret after losing a loved one, it will negatively impact your psyche. You may have trouble sleeping or focusing. Feelings of regret can put you under stress that will eventually lead to physical illness. Regret can eat away at you if you do not find a healthy way to cope with it. Remember that regret is something we all feel at different points in our lives. But understand that you are worthy of forgiveness and deserve to lead a happy life regardless.
You can overcome a deep regret by actively working on coping with your feelings. Find healthy distractions such as volunteer work, exercise, or surrounding yourself with friends and family. Give yourself space to grieve and heal. Be kind to yourself and find a way to forgive the mistakes you believe you have made. Understand that feeling regret and beating yourself up about your mistakes does not change the past. Being unkind towards yourself serves no purpose other than to encourage you to behave differently in the future. Once you’ve accepted that you made a mistake and vowed to do better going forward, you can let go of your regret.
Check with your doctor, church, or community center for local support groups near you. There are nonprofit groups who organize support groups for several things, including grief. If you cannot find a support group to attend in person, consider joining an online support group.
Grief and regret are closely tied to one another, but they are not the same. Grief is a term used to describe the overwhelming range of emotions we feel after experiencing a loss. Most often grief is associated with the loss of a loved one due to death, but it can also be experienced after a breakup, divorce, or estrangement from a loved one.
Regret is a feeling we experience when we recognize our mistakes and wish we had acted differently. Regret is closely associated with things in our past we cannot change or directly make amends for. The death of a loved one often brings with it deep feelings of regret for things we wish we had done or said to our loved one before they passed. Because of this, regret is considered part of the grieving process.
Feeling regret after loss is normal. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. If you’re dealing with regret after losing a loved one, know that you are not alone. You are not a terrible person nor are you unworthy of kindness.
Learn to explore your regret in a healthy way and never hesitate to reach out for help. By taking steps to amend your mistakes and cope with your feelings, you can forgive yourself and move on.
September 9, 2022 by Frances Kay