Grief and Regrets

by David Knapp

Shortly after my first wife, Ruth died, I heard a song by a musical couple in Michigan, Steve and Annie Chapman. The song was “No Regrets.” it spoke of the pain and recovery of a man who had lost his wife. Some lyrics included: “He has an empty house, he has an empty room, he has an empty bed, it happened much too soon. But one thing he does not have, he has no regrets.” 

When I spoke at Ruth’s funeral, I declared that I would have no regrets if I had the choice again about whether to marry her. Even knowing that I would experience crushing pain … I would marry her again.

Before the first year was over, regrets surfaced regarding the whole thing revolving around her struggles with cancer and death. I regretted things like not talking about it enough with her, not saying I love you more, and even not talking about her with our children after she died.

Dealing with these concerns became a part of my grieving process.

One day, nine months after her funeral, I drove to the cemetery where she was buried. My regrets swelled into a deep feeling of guilt. I knew I could not talk to her. But I reasoned with myself – She was in heaven and with Jesus. And I could speak to Him.…

Through my sobs, I dropped to my knees at her grave and cried out to Jesus. “Please tell Ruth I’m sorry.”  The sobbing deepened. But when I left that day, I sensed the relief from the guilt that I was seeking.

I doubt that I am the only one who has ever grieved through regrets in some way or another. Some such regrets are unfounded and just plain not true. In contrast, other regrets may be honest “mistakes” from which to learn. Often the simple process of acknowledging these thoughts and feelings helps one begin to find relief. An open discussion with a trusted friend, counselor, or clergy can often aid in working through this aspect of one’s grieving.

Regrets are often viewed as harmful, so the topic is avoided. That perspective may be accurate at the onset, but regrets don’t have to remain a burden forever.

I am determined to turn those regrets around. I kept my lessons in mind when I remarried as this new relationship deepened. I started talking with my kids more about their mother’s death. I even became more open as to how I felt.

Narrowing the regrets to a specific topic can help identify the core problem. Feelings of regret don’t have to overshadow every aspect of the time of one’s loss and the grief that follows. Today’s regrets don’t have to be tomorrow’s burdens. They can be tomorrow’s victories when mistakes become lessons learned and acted upon. Healing is available.

You can reach David Knapp at:

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