How to Deal With Regret After Someone You Love Dies

The grieving process hurts worse when you regret things you said or did while your loved one was alive, doesn’t it? You have no way to apologize or make amends. And you can’t change how you acted in the past. These ideas for dealing with regret after someone you love dies are inspired by a book I’m reading about living after loss; I’ll share tidbits of it throughout this article.

Regretting things you said and did while your loved one was alive is normal. You are not alone, you are not a bad person, and you don’t need to hate yourself. No matter what you did or said, you CAN find forgiveness, healing, and peace. But — and this isn’t the fun part — you have to go through the grief. Don’t run away from the painful grieving process or try to avoid dealing with feelings of regret. The more you try to avoid the pain of grief, the harder it’ll be to survive life after losing someone you love. And the more you’ll hate yourself. Don’t let yourself fall into that downward spiral despair! Instead, learn how to start facing and dealing with regretful feelings when you lose a loved one.

“To go through grief requires incredible reserves of patience,” writes Bob Deits in Life after Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss. “At some point along the way, you will feel terribly sad, lonely, lost, angry — or all of these. To get in touch with such unpleasant feelings, your have to be convinced there is absolutely no other way out of your grief than straight through the middle of it. You must have a strong sense of purpose and direction.”

There are no quick or easy tips for dealing with grief and regret when someone you love dies, but there is love and forgiveness. Nobody can heal you or take the pain away, but you can receive healing and forgiveness if you open your heart and look up.

How to Deal With Regret After the Death of a Loved One

I’m sorry for your loss. It hurts when someone you love dies — especially if you regret the way you treated him or her. I can’t erase your pain or make the grieving process go away, but I can share how I dealt with my regrets…and how I came to a place of joy, peace, forgiveness in my life.

What I regretted after she died

My grandma took me in when I was 15 years old. I ran away from home — my mom was a single schizophrenic woman who was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. I was in foster homes as a child; I didn’t meet my dad until I was 29 and went to Jerusalem, Israel to introduce myself.

When Someone You Love Dies Dealing With Regret

How to Deal With Regret After Someone You Love Dies

My grandma was in her early 60s when she not only took me in, but also moved to a different apartment so I could have my own room. She took me to Mexico twice, Hawaii, and Venezuela on vacations. She supported me while I went to high school, and gave me a huge weekly allowance. She helped me get a part-time job, a driver’s license, and a car. A Ford Mustang! She even helped pay for my university degree.

I lived with her for less than a year; she wept openly the day I moved out. She loved me so much, she sacrificed her time and money and vacation time for me…and I abandoned her. She supported and encouraged me, and I shrugged off her love, dismissed her needs, and waved away her sincere questions and interest in my life. I was a spoiled and entitled teenager. I was emotionally damaged because of my mom. I dropped out of high school and moved to a different city to have my own adventures; my grandma had to move back to a one-bedroom apartment. An old lady, moving all by herself.

My grandma died when she was 73 years old, alone in her apartment. When someone you love dies, dealing with regret is a long process. Recovering from loss and surviving grief takes time and energy. Forgiving yourself is a daily choice, a conscious decision, a deliberate act of self-compassion.

Talk about the things you regret saying and doing

Being honest about what you regret is the first step to dealing with it. You don’t have to write your regrets in a blog post in order to deal with them, but you should write them somewhere. Your private journal, or a piece of scrap paper. Burn it later if you want, but get it out of you.

The regrets you keep hidden and secret will fester and grow. Talking about the regretful things you said and did won’t heal the pain of losing someone you love, but it will start the healing process. How? By ripping off the dark covers of shame and guilt. By bringing your words and actions out into the light, so you can start dealing with the regrets haunting you. When someone you love dies, you can’t apologize or make amends…but you can start working your way through the grief.

Learn how to work through the grieving process

“Because grief work is so demanding, it’s common to look for any way to get out of going through it,” writes Deits in Life After Loss. “No one wants to face grief. No one wants to feel the loneliness and heartache it brings.”

We talk about grief and the grieving process a lot, but we don’t talk about the pain of dealing with regret when someone you love dies. Instead, we try to avoid the shame and we try to move quickly past the guilt. We’re consumed with feelings that we can’t talk about — and this makes it impossible to truly heal the pain of regretting how we treated loved ones before they died.

Time alone does NOT heal grief. Letting time pass is not how to deal with regret when someone you love dies. The guilt, shame, and regret you feel won’t simply go away if you keep looking away from it. Regret stays with you, a dark shadow monster crouching in the corner.

Allow regret to be part of your grief when someone you love dies

What do you regret about what you said and did when your loved one was alive? Maybe you were selfish and neglectful, like I was. Maybe you were physically or emotionally abusive. Maybe your actions caused serious relationship problems; maybe your words were mean and spiteful.

Grieve the choices you made. You made mistakes, you allowed yourself to be caught up in negative or toxic emotions, you made selfish decisions. You really were doing the best you could at that time — even though now, looking back, you think you could’ve done or behaved better.

If you’re having trouble letting go, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.

Help Dealing With Regret After a Loved One Dies

how to deal with regret when someone you love diesRead Life after Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss. Bob Deits provides essential wisdom and practical exercises for navigating grief and recovery. This book is fully updated with new advice on dealing with catastrophic losses, guidance on using technology to foster connections and maintain support networks, and reflections from Deits’ ongoing counseling and his firsthand experiences with dealing with grief and going through the grieving process.

Life After Loss will help you. If you’ve experienced a death – you’re dealing with guilt and regret – you need to focus on finding positive ways to put your life back together. It’ll be different, but still meaningful.

When someone you love dies, take time to learn how to deal with regret in healthy ways. There are no shortcuts. There are no quick tips for dealing with regret.

But, there is forgiveness. God has already forgiven you…have you forgiven yourself? Feel free to share your thoughts below. If you want, write about the regrets you have and the choices you made. Talk about the guilt and shame you feel, the struggle it is to deal with regret after losing a loved one.

Be honest with yourself, and humble with your God. Receive the love and freedom Jesus offers. Live in peace with yourself, and you will learn to live without regret.


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5 thoughts on “How to Deal With Regret After Someone You Love Dies”

  1. Hi, thanks for the article, it was very comforting to read. My regrets are very fresh as my friend just passed away right after his 39th birthday, he was my childhood friend when we were all expat kids in Malaysia and my fam took him and his brother in for a brief time while his parents were separating. After that they left Malaysia. He looked for me about 6 years ago and his family did too, they found me and told me that he had become severely mentally ill, and was in an institution. It was all very heavy and sad, but we wrote letters to each other, reminiscing about old times etc. About a year ago he was allowed to live alone and he was super happy, he came on facebook and we’d chat occasionally, he was doing so well. But since New Year I hadnt really spoken to him despite some handwaves and questions he sent. I just got too distracted and didnt give it attention. On the first of May was his birthday and I forgot that too. A few days later he was found dead from a stroke. I am devastated, he meant so much to me and I just had my head up my butt to not give him some of the attention that he deserved. It literally takes a few seconds to send someone a message, and it would have made him so happy. And now it’s too late. I will have to learn to live with that. Thanks for letting me write my regret.

  2. Thank you for this article. My 21 year old son died in 1999. As much as I know I was a loving and caring mom I have a list of regrets that I have not forgiven myself for. I put them in what I call a box on a shelf that is hidden in my mind so as I do not have to deal with them. The problem is they go unresolved, I am not at peace. Thank you for giving me a place to share my regrets. When Jason was about 5 he came to my bed in the middle of the night and wanted to sleep with us. I was so tired I said no and put him back in his bed, it makes me so sad that I didn’t take that little boy into bed and cuddle with him. When Jason was in nursery school they had a library which once a week you needed to send the book back and get a new one. All that year I never sent the book back therefore he never got a new one. How could I have done this, thinking of my poor child watching other kids get new books every week. What was wrong with me. When Jason was about 6 we were baking and he dropped a carton of eggs on the floor, I got mad and threw a chair which really scared him. I never acted like that, I am so sorry. While in high school Jason was trying out for the volleyball team. I forgot about a tryout date and he didn’t go therefore he didn’t make the team. I found out it was between him and anther boy afterward. Jason wasn’t athletic but he liked playing. It would have meant so much if he would have made that team. I forgot his 19th birthday. How do you forget your child’s birthday? Jason moved out about a year before his death. My sisters-in-law invited us for dinner for mother’s day. I didn’t think of telling Jason. Thanks for giving me a safe place to get this out, I am not sure how to heal these regrets.

  3. Thank you so much for helping me realize that I am not the only one living with deep regret over the way I treated my loved one when he was alive. My sweet husband of 47 years passed away six months ago and my regrets are killing me. I don’t understand why he didn’t divorce me. It’s a rea testament to the kind of man he was that he didn’t strangle me.
    I was downright selfish, cantankerous, and mean in the things I said to him over the years. I remember every mean thing I ever said to him over the years and relive them over and over in my mind. On the other hand, I can’t thing of anything mean he may have said to me, making me think my hateful speech was totally unprovoked and unjustified. It hurts so much to think of the hurt I caused him and I can’t make it up to him.

    1. Sara, You arent alone in how you feel. I feel exactly the same way. Wish I could change things too. Most things I read talks about how the widow was so loving and kind all of the time that it makes me feel even more guilt. Thanks for posting what you did.

    2. Sara, You arent alone in how you feel. I feel exactly the same way. Wish I could change things too. Most things I read talk about how the widow was so loving and kind all of the time that it makes me feel even more guilt. Thanks for posting what you did.