Grieving is a healing process, and each person's process is unique. The way to move through grieving is to allow yourself to cry all of your tears. This is a time to be especially gentle, kind, and tender with yourself. Allowing yourself to grieve is self-honoring.

If, however, you are suffering with feelings of guilt, regret and remorse, this is unnecessary suffering. These feelings are most often due to misinterpretations and ill-founded beliefs.

As an example, I was talking with a man recently who’d been caring for his dying father.

"I left him to take care of some personal business,” he said. "I knew I shouldn’t have gone because something inside told me not to go. But I didn’t listen. My father died while I was gone."

Regret. The word originates from Old French, regreter, ‘bewail (the dead),' feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, esp. a loss or missed opportunity)

"If only I’d been a better sister, brother, wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son, or friend. . ."
"If only I’d said a, b or c."
"If only I hadn’t said a, b or c."
"If only I’d done x, y or z."
"If only I hadn’t done x, y or z."

Get the picture?

Take a moment to think about something you regret, something you didn't do that you think you should have. Choose something meaningful, something with substance. Get a clear image or sense of it. Now tune in to your thoughts. What do you tell yourself about it? How do your thoughts make you feel? Don't read on until you've completed this process, because I want to point something out.

As you thought about the regret, did you notice that your mind automatically assumed that things would have turned out better if you'd done whatever it was you didn't do?

We assume an untruth when we're in the throes of regret: we assume that what we regret—the thing we should have done but didn't—would have turned out better than the actual outcome. But how can we possibly know with certainty? We can’t.

Next time you catch yourself in regret, remember that you’re making a huge assumption. Truth be told, you don’t know how things would have turned out. Our minds, however, tend to idealize what isn’t in lieu of what is. "If only . . . " is the accompanying refrain.

Here are some conscious beliefs that I choose to hold that you may find helpful as well:

- Life is occurring in divine order regardless of my judgments about it: facilitates me in owning and releasing my judgments so that I can embrace what is.

- I am 100% responsible for my own experience: reminds me that I am the source of my thoughts and feelings, which are generated by my beliefs. I have the power to change what I believe . . . which will lead to different thoughts and feelings.

- Every event provides an opportunity to grow spiritually: facilitates me in looking for and discovering value and growth in the most challenging of circumstances.

I began this article by sharing about a man who’d been caring for his dying father.

"I left him to take care of some personal business,” he said. "I knew I shouldn’t have gone because something inside told me not to go. But I didn’t listen. My father died while I was gone."

I could hear the regret and guilt in the way his voice lowered and trailed off. Can you see how regret was showing up in the way I just described? In his mind things would have turned out better if he'd been there when his father transitioned. In his mind that's how it should have happened. But, I ask you: how can we possibly know that with certainty? We can't. This is the underlying assumption that keeps regret in place.

"It was wrong of me to have left. I should have been there for him."

“Let's take this out of the arena of right/wrong," I said. "From a spiritual perspective, we can't judge it because we don't know. What if, on some level—for your highest good and the highest good of all concerned—you both agreed to play it out this way? What might your soul want you to learn from the experience?”

He paused. “I guess my soul would want me to learn to listen to myself.”

“What a beautiful gift your father’s given you. Would you be willing to accept it, receive it and be thankful for it?
If I were a gambling person, I'd bet that’s what he'd want for you.”

“But he died alone.”

“I have a friend who was by herself when she transitioned. She told me, through a medium, that it was precisely the way she wanted it. Would you be willing to consider the possibility that it’s how your father may have wanted it, too?”

“That never occurred to me.”

"And although we all make the transition from physical to spiritual on our own, are we ever really alone? I don't think so."

The session continued a bit longer, but can you feel the energy start to free up?

The next time you find yourself deep in regret, remember to question your assumptions.

No matter what you've done . . . or haven't . . . you are lovable and worthy . . . and all is well.

Irene Kendig, M.A. is a compassionate self-acceptance coach who specializes in facilitating the release of unnecessary suffering. She is an accomplished speaker as well as the award-winning author of, Conversations with Jerry and Other People I Thought Were Dead: Seven compelling dialogues that will transform the way you think about dying . . . and living. Visit Irene at for a free 30-minute consult or to read a book excerpt.

Copyright © 2009 by Irene Kendig

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