Over the past 3 years I lost 6 family members, starting with my wife of 8 months, then dad, grandpa, an uncle, grandma, and another grandma. It’s been extremely difficult having so many deaths in such a short time, but I have noticed a pattern. The initial feelings that have consistently emerged are guilt and regret. As I have lost close family members, there is a sense that I could have done more and that the relationship should have been better. I guess it’s because I take for granted that I always have the future to do better, and then when that future is gone, I am left with regret and guilt.
For many nights, I’ve mentally beat myself up over all the past times I did the wrong things in these relationships with my lost loved ones. Hindsight is 20/20, and it was easy for me to look back at the past when I could have done things better and wish that I didn’t take those precious moments for granted. If only I knew what I know now, I would have made different choices, choices that wouldn’t have led to regret. I even let myself feel responsible for my wife’s death, who lost her life by getting struck by a bus while trying to help someone. I felt that if I was less selfish that day that the timing of everything would have been different, or perhaps, if I had been more faithful and obedient, that Heavenly Father wouldn’t have taken my dear wife. But the truth is, focusing on the past and feeling negative about what I could have done serves no purpose. It just keeps negative emotions alive that eat away at my soul and make me miserable.
I wanted to feel better about the past and let go of the pain. Through my journey I have had to learn to forgive myself for being human and imperfect. I have come to the conclusion that I will never be perfect in any relationship. Whether it’s the past, present or future, it is simply impossible for me to be perfect. Being human means making mistakes, and this especially applies to relationships. Perfection in any shape and form is impossible to achieve in this life.
So why do I beat myself up and harbor ill feelings if it’s in my nature to be imperfect?
Positive elements can be gained from the mistakes of the past if we are willing to learn, we just have to sift through the hurt in order to find the gem of knowledge. This makes it easier for me to let go of the pain as well, because there’s a sense that my suffering and pain wasn’t all for naught.There is a way to change things for the future so that I can have better relationships. By forgiving myself of the mistakes of the past, I can choose to learn from and apply the lessons learned to my present and future relationships. For example, I wish that I would have been a better communicator with my wife, and so I have sought to learn how to improve my communication skills so that future relationships won’t suffer in like manner. Positive elements can be gained from the mistakes of the past if we are willing to learn, we just have to sift through the hurt in order to find the gem of knowledge. This makes it easier for me to let go of the pain as well, because there’s a sense that my suffering and pain wasn’t all for naught.
Letting go of regret and guilt through forgiveness has allowed me to get over my PTSD from the accident that took my wife. Frequent emotional triggers used to cause me severe anxiety, and I even once ended up in the ER because of it. The PTSD was so severe that I needed medical assistance to get my heart back to normal. But I have noticed that as I have forgiven myself for the past and accepted myself as an imperfect human, that these triggers have gone away. I currently have very little anxiety.
As we choose to forgive ourselves, accept that we are human in our relationships and that we make mistakes, then we will begin to learn from those mistakes. It’s the only way to heal and let go of the guilt and regret. Of course it isn’t easy to face pain and choose to accept things, but I have learned that it’s far easier than holding onto the pain. Letting it fester only gradually makes my life worse and more painful.
Jesus Christ can help with this process as we can ask him to help carry some of the pain. Once we’ve come to terms with being human and are ready to let go of the hurt, we can hand it over to Christ and ask him to take care of the rest. That allows us to let go of that pain, feel peace and more forward. It’s a process that takes time and patience, but if we do this, I promise we will find peace and our spirits will heal through the help of the Savior.
Questions to Ponder:
- What regrets and guilt are you harboring? How can you learn from the past and let go of it?