It is entirely normal to experience regret. It’s an uncontrollable emotional reaction that can occur whenever we make a decision. It occurs when a doubt related to the adequacy of our choice persists when there is more than one suitable option on the table and it is even more probable in situations where the decision-making process was difficult. Thus, as illustrated by the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side” it can easily happen that after the fact, we presume that the alternative choice might have been better.
Therefore, we shouldn’t try to prevent the sentiment of regret altogether, as hoping to eradicate it would go against the very nature of this emotion, inherent to the decision-making process. Instead, what matters is to accept our existence and to learn to manage it properly in order to avoid being affected by the uncertainty or even the distress it may cause.
So in reality, it is not unhealthy to experience regret but rather to live with regret. Living with regret allows this emotion, this doubt, to take up all the space in our life, preventing us from seeing reality as is, since we are blinded by the illusion of what might have been, had we made other decisions and had we taken different paths.
Hence, because there is no magic recipe, the only way out is to rationalize the situation at hand, ignoring all of the hypothetical situations swirling in our heads that can prevent us from seeing clearly. We must stick to the facts and focus only on the present. It is, however, very likely that we may need to engage in dialogue with others as it often happens that our questioning, relentless and baseless, can lead to a state of total confusion, sometimes even paralyzing us, to the point of rendering it almost impossible to cope with alone.
Not being immune to the feeling of regret, let me share with you my most recent related experience to better illustrate my point. Here is how I dealt with the profound feeling of regret following my mother’s passing on November 7th of last year.
Having arrived at her bedside nearly two hours after her passing, I was not there to accompany her in those last moments. I immediately began feeling guilty since having intuitively felt something was wrong the previous night, I had considered leaving on the spot and driving to Montreal even though I had just arrived from a five-hour drive. It was already late and since my place was about a four-hour drive from hers, I would have arrived at dawn, at the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Therefore, I decided it would be wiser to leave early in the morning, which I did.
So despite the fact that at my arrival, the nurses tried to reassure me by mentioning that maybe it had been my mother’s will for me not to be there (she knew that I was on my way to visit her that morning) or even that it was for the best considering that those last moments were somewhat difficult, I still couldn’t forgive myself for not being there and I deeply regretted my choice. My sense of regret, however, began to subside about a week later at my mother’s funeral as I was speaking to one of my cousins. I realized that even if I would’ve made it in time to see her through at the crossing, I could’ve ultimately experienced a sense of regret. Listening to my cousin recount the last moments he spent with his mother while she was hospitalized, I felt the pain that still resides within him, several years later. To have been powerless to do anything while she was dying in his presence seemed to still eat away at him. He also seemed bruised by the images of the last moments spent by her side. So in the end, was he regretting? Regardless of it, the grass may not always be greener on the other side after all, as I only had good memories of my mother despite her disease.
This is when I realized that regardless of which decision that I had made, it would have still been possible for me to regret it. So considering that in any case, there was no way for me to change it after the fact and reassured by this new understanding of my reality, I accepted that my choice was the one I was meant to make. Peace and serenity found their way back within me and I was already free of regret, having been helped, without his knowledge, by my cousin.
Hence, since the emotion of regret can occur in diverse situations, each different from the other and not necessarily linked to mourning, allow me to offer you the following two posters so that they may inspire you regardless of the origin of your sense of regret and regardless of its complexity. They may be able to help you surpass your inner regrets in order to be in harmony with your decisions. At last, here are the thoughts behind the two posters in question:
“Do not regret the roads not taken, as who knows if you would have preferred their course.”
“Regretting is failing to live your everyday life to the fullest.”
You may download the posters by using the following links:
One last thought:
“Life is too short to be worrying! So look ahead, not behind and enjoy fully everything life has to offer”
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