I can’t fully express how often after my mother’s passing I began to experience regret. There were so many overwhelming thoughts and questions rushing through my mind. I suffered from crippling guilt. Maybe I wasn’t the best daughter. I could have treated her better. I could have honored her more. Then, of course, the memories of all the crazy arguments and disagreements we had between us didn’t hold back. I wished I could have taken back some of the things I said and did.
There was a moment when the guilt turned into regret. Especially, regretting not spending enough time with her. I started to think of the numerous times she would beg me to go with her to the mall or go get our hair and nails done together. Regrettably, there were times I would tell her I didn’t have enough time because I was so caught up in living my own life. I regretted not taking more pictures of her or writing down some of my favorite sayings of hers so I’d never forget them. The biggest regret of all was not saying “I love you” more often to her. I didn’t realize how important those three words were until I was no longer able to say them to the person that mattered the most in my life.
During my time of experiencing guilt and regrets, I discovered I was also angry deep down inside. I came to the realization that I was angry with my mother for not taking better care of herself after one of many much- needed therapy sessions. Admitting that there was anger inside of directed toward my mother was both scary and relieving. My therapist advised me to take a few important steps to rid myself of the guilt, regret, and now anger. She suggested I first let go of the feeling that I didn’t do enough as a daughter. Second, she advised me to write my mother a letter detailing everything I felt. All the anger, regret, and guilt should be purged out of my heart and mind onto the paper. Next, she gave me the option to either rip it up or go to the cemetery and read it to my mom. I decided to read it aloud to my mom at her burial site. Immediately after reading the letter out loud, I felt all the guilt, regret, and anger began to dwindle. I finally felt like I could move on.
I wish I could tell you to not be hard on yourself when it comes to regret and guilt, but the truth of the matter is, you probably will. You will have your moments of ‘what if’ and might wish you could take certain things you said or did back. Just as my therapist did with me, I encourage you to write a letter to the loved one you lost. Give yourself the option to write it and rip it up shortly after writing it all out or reading it out loud, but once you do either, prepare yourself to let those feelings you dumped into that letter go. Once again, this healing journey is full of layers you must peel through to get to the core.
I never imagined I’d be saying that grief taught me how to love better. I owe grief so much for teaching me to show people how much I love them instead of simply telling them. Grieving allowed me to be in tune with my feelings more than ever before. I tell people how I feel at the moment instead of waiting for a ‘better’ time. I started hugging more because I didn’t realize how important physical touch was. The biggest tip I’d like to leave with you is to not let death be the reason you decided to love people right. Love right now before it’s entirely too late. Learn how to treat people and love them now, so when the day comes that you’re facing the loss of a loved one, you can have the reassurance that you loved them with all your heart. Let go of the guilt and regret!
I love you,
Ashley (Healing Daughters)