Regrets are an odd thing, because people end up regretting a lot of things in their life and then they often end up regretting all the time they spent regretting. Go figure. I deal with regret like everyone else, and I’ve processed a lot of it very recently.
For context: my laptop hard drive recently crashed for unknown reasons, and I lost a 60,000 word novel I’d recently written (among other things.) As any fellow writer will know, this is pure devastation anyway, but that particular book was very personal and meant to be written only once. I’ve really regretted loosing that book.
However, through the last two weeks I’ve worked through the emotion called regret and I want to share how I handled it with you today.
And of course before I move forward I want to say this: feeling regret is not a bad thing.
Regret is a legitimate emotion that signals to your soul that there is something to be mourned, forgiven, learned from and released as best you can. Everyone deals with regret in their own time and way; so it’s important to know that the emotion itself is not bad. Now, choosing to live in regret for weeks, months, or years is when regret becomes bad.
How I Deal With Regret
Mourn your losses. I’ve learned that when I feel regret, or any type of sadness, to not smother the feeling. I don’t think causing humongous scenes wherever you go is good, but with family or friends, it’s okay to talk out your sadness and cry if you can. Crying allows the negative emotion of anxiety to escape the body and soul–it’s natural, it’s cleansing, and it’s healthy.
The evening I was told my hard drive was gone, I cried for hours in my room and was very sad for the rest of the night; the guilt and pain dwindled by morning enough for me to work like normal. I don’t care what type of regrets you have–relationships, words, preventable issues or things that weren’t even your fault–if you lose something, mourn it until you feel some relief.
Forgive yourself. Make room for mistakes in your life by forgiving yourself (or whomever might need to be forgiven, if you have regrets over a broken relationship of any sort.) I was still very mad at myself for not backing up my work, or emailing it to my sister, even after all my crying. After several days of frustration, I finally said, “That was a mistake on my part, that I now recognize and can fix.”
If I can’t make room for mistakes in my life, how will I ever grow as a person?
You can’t change the past. I believe God uses “cause and effect” to guide lives to touch other lives that touch other lives in ways we don’t even understand. Things happen for a reason and things happen in the past, where we can’t touch them. What happened, has happened; now I gotta deal with it. Look at it however you want, but regretting the past does not fix the problem, or the heartache, or make you feel better.
Loosing my book was devastating and agonizing but it happened. Am I now going to just sit here and be resentful? What good would that do me to regret something that can’t be reversed? From what I see, this where a lot of people get stuck; they want to change what can’t be undone, while neglecting the future. That’s very sad and it’s a cycle that will continue unless one faces the front again.
Don’t live in regret, but do learn from it. The thing about the past is that it’s what you do in the present. So, take regret as signal that something went wrong last time and learn from it. You messed up in that relationship by doing this and such. Well, now you know what not to do now. You should have turned left instead of right. Well, now you know what to do now. I lost my book because I was not proactive and should have saved it on a USB and a secondary hard drive. Well, now I know what to do now.
We need to stop looking out the back window and face the oncoming road. Grip that steering wheel with both hands.
Try to find positives; the “if it hadn’t”s. Finding the good in the bad is the key putting regret to sleep–this ties in a bit with the point I made just above. Sometimes its really hard to look at regrets and find positive things, but they’re always at least one. If you can’t find one, that means it’s coming. You will see it one day.
I should have saved my story as soon as it was finished but now I know I should do that from now on: a positive thing! Thank God the laptop was under warranty; a positive. Most of my stuff was saved; a positive. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
This is not a cure-all, “gone forever” way for getting rid of Mr. Regret, sadly. I’ve gotten through these steps personally, and I still feel regret over my story, in small ways, every once and while. But if we forgot our regrets, we would simply make the same mistake over and over.
Besides, there will always be something to regret in our lives. We are humans who make mistakes, after all. Once we figure out one area of life, another area will soon fall apart and we’ll have to deal with that problem. Again.
But please, don’t live in regret forever. You don’t want to regret that either.