TRANSCRIPT: Good morning, Five Minute Families. It is so good to be with you on this unseasonably warm day. We will soon be closing Clear View Retreat down for the winter, but we certainly hope that all the projects our volunteers have been diligently focusing on this year will allow this to be our last year to have to close during the cold winter months. So many pastors, missionaries, and grieving families reach out to us during these months, and we are continually praying and working toward being able to be open during their times of need. That’s where you come in. Please consider partnering with us because we bring the hope of Christ into families that need Him now more than ever. Check out us at clearviewretreat.org if you feel led to share your time or gifts to help families in both the storms and norms of life.
One of those storms we all go through at some point in our lives is the death of a loved one. We are going to continue our series on grief today by discussing regrets after your loved one has died. How do we deal with the death of someone we love when the regrets seep in?
First, let us clarify that we are not discussing guilt after the death of a loved one. What’s the difference between guilt and regret, you ask? Litsa Williams at WhatsYourGrief.com stated it this way, “…guilt occurs when we do something that we know is wrong while we are doing it, typically for ethical, moral, or legal reasons. Regret, on the other hand, is the emotion we experience when we look back on an action and feel we should or could have done something differently. It differs from guilt in that we didn’t know or feel at the time that we were doing something wrong, or we didn’t actually have control over the situation. Also, [regret] typically is not that we did something that falls in that morally or legally wrong category, but rather a benign action (or inaction) that we later wish was done differently based on an outcome.”
For example, after my cousin died unexpectedly, I regretted not ever fulfilling her request that I take an extra few hours to come see her new home and spend some time with her family and mine together. It was not a morally wrong choice not to add many hours of travel to my already weary schedule with my young children in tow, but she was inviting me into her life beyond our childhood memories, and I missed an opportunity to know her better before her death. I regret that choice.
We are often told to live life without regrets, but even God says in both Genesis 6:6 and 1 Samuel 15:35 that He regretted actions He took. Now, before you jump up and say, “Hey, God doesn’t make mistakes!” realize that we did not say He made a mistake, we said HIS word says He REGRETTED making man and then making Saul king, respectively. As John Piper stated, “God is quite capable of lamenting a state of affairs He Himself foreknew and brought about.”
So, while the world tells us to live without regrets, we hear from God that we are to learn from those regrets. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” If we simply dwell in our regret and do not take those thoughts captive, we can become self-focused or lead ourselves into guilt-producing behavior.
Five actions you can take if you have regret after the death of a loved one are:
- Acknowledge your regret. Ways to do that include journaling or speaking with a trusted pastor, mentor, or counselor.
- Repent of your regret to the Lord. Pray, even out loud or in writing, to the Lord and ask Him for His guidance.
- Determine actions you may need to take, such as a behavior you need to change in your ongoing relationships.
- Forgive yourself, especially since you cannot seek the forgiveness of the one you love.
- Look to the hope of the future. Remember that God says in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Henry David Thoreau said it this way, “Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”
Thank you for joining us for the Five Minute Family. We pray that God fills you with hope and comfort as you see His power and glory. God bless!
First aired on WECO.
“the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and he was deeply grieved.” Genesis 6:6
“And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” 1 Samuel 15:35