grief healing Nov 15, 2022


David Knapp

 Shortly after my first wife, Ruth, died I heard a song by a musical couple in Michigan, Steve and Annie Chapman. It spoke of the pain and recovery of a man who had lost his wife. The song was “No Regrets.” Some of the 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 if I had the choice again about whether to marry her or not, I would have no regrets. Even knowing that I would experience crushing pain … I would marry her again.

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

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

My regrets swelled into a deep feeling of guilt. One day, nine months after her funeral I drove to the cemetery where she was buried. I knew I could not talk to her. But I reasoned with myself - She was in heaven and with Jesus. And I could talk 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. Often the simple process of acknowledgement of these thoughts and feelings helps one begin to find relief. Some such regrets are unfounded and just plain not true. While other regrets may be real “mistakes” from which to learn. 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 being negative and therefore the topic avoided. That perspective may be true at the onset, but regrets don’t have to remain a burden forever.

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

Narrowing the regrets to a specific topic can help in identifying 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 the mistakes made become lessons learned and acted upon. Healing is available.


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