Dr. MacAfee shared with me: During a recent family therapy session, we brought up the topic of regrets. During the sharing, the conversation became heavy, as if the room were sinking into a tunnel of despair.
In an uncharacteristic move, I blurted out, “Woah. Stop. This is going nowhere. I can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Regrets aren’t to make you beat up on yourselves. Regrets are normal, and they show a corner of our health and wellbeing. Regrets are the thresholds to grace. We can learn from these difficult matters without hating ourselves. Regrets, when properly addressed, are the gate to healing. They enhance understanding of ourselves and our place in the world as a loving individual. Sure you wonder, “How could I have done ..X…?” This is a great question, and once addressed and answered properly, can led us to health. These are simply things we would not do again.
Something settled in the room.
My reaction: I always thought regret was unhealthy and felt if I were stronger I would not have them. Dr. MacAfee offers us a way of using regret as a powerful tool to move forward in consciousness.
Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will use my regrets to make better choices, to develop a positive sense of wellbeing and to allow love and grace to lead me in every aspect of my life. I won’t live with regret for yesterday, but I will learn from yesterday’s regrets to live a better today.
I love what Libby wrote, “I won’t live with regret from yesterday, but I will live with yesterday’s regrets to live a better today”. That is very powerful.
I learned some of this from my psychiatrist many years ago. When my son was in active addiction and I hadn’t heard from him in years, the above mantra was one of my lifesavers. I had so many regrets. Regrets about how I raised my son, regrets about putting him on medication as a 5 year old, regrets about putting him in learning disability classes, regrets about how I punished him, regrets of saying no and letting him go when he was 26 years old. I regret being short with my son the last time I talked with him, on the phone, before he overdosed and died (my biggest regret). But, I told myself over and over that I didn’t know he was going to overdose and kill himself. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would speak to him. I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. I knew if I continued to beat myself up, I would perish. I know my son is in a good place. And, that’s a very positive thought. It’s a thought I keep telling myself every day. It keeps me alive and well.
We must turn our regrets into positive force by not beating ourselves up. We, as parents, are human. There is no book to tell us how to rear our children. It is impossible for anyone to have all the knowledge to teach us how to raise our children. We all want our children to be, what we have always dreamed them to be. But, in reality, our children have their own minds and personalities which we cannot change. As parents, we can only guide them in the right direction. The direction they choose, is their choice, not ours. As Libby has always said, if they choose the wrong direction, we need to stay close and out of the way.
We, as parents, can do the best we can. We are not perfect. Don’t beat yourselves up. Practice positive thinking and, in turn, you will find the peace and well being you deserve as a parent, and as a human being.
Barbara and Libby,
What great insight — using our regrets to be a part of our healing.
I never thought of it like that.
Yesterday we learned my son got two years and he will be in a medium security prison. He is on a rehab range as the lawyer was able to lay out addiction history. Legal aid lawyer as we would not help hire one . So finally the missing is found we know where he is and maybe just maybe this rehab will begin to help. This post on regret could not have come at a better time. All the what ifs I sometimes torture myself with . Barbara as I read your comment I was thinking how I’ve always regretted that I did not put my son on medication I was told to when he was younger-and i wished id been stricter,this just underscores how no matter what we do or do not do the journey they are on is of their making not necessarily their choosing because I think addiction takes such a hold. I love this post. I love you all for taking this journey with me ,your prayers and wisdom. I’m working hard for two weeks to fulfil obligations then I’m taking some time off work to dig in the dirt and sleep and find some way to let new reality settle in my heart. Praying for all our children.
Thank you all for your shares. We all have regret because we all wanted to do the right thing by our children . It was not about us- addiction is a disease and we are not responsible for their genes, their vulnerabilities and or the environment all mixed in.but it affects all relationships and makes us as sick as they are and therefore, I am responsible for some poor choices I made as a parent, for enablining when I did and I am responsible for doing better now that I know the difference. I do regret how I forced solutions quickly at times without thinking things through better, but I made the best decision at that time on my journey with this complexity strangling me.
Libby I love your promise for today. Perfect thought.
I love you! Such wisdom here. I’m particularly struck by the polar opposites of what we regret. Barbara and Joy, your posts are (I’ll use Pat’s word) priceless. These two posts show that there is no ‘right’ thing to do when faced with addiction. We do our best. As Jane says we all wanted to do the right thing by our children. I have regrets with both Jeff and Jeremy, but only one is an addict. Addiction isn’t about regrets, but they do make us human. We do our best – what more can we ask of ourselves?
Joy, your missing son is found. I send my prayers for his strength and recovery. Prayers for all our children.
My son’s addiction also lead him into federal prison. In 20 more days he’ll have been there for a full year. The years leading up to his actual departure were a nightmare. I blamed him for putting our family through this. I blamed myself for not being strong enough to say no to him when I should have. I’ve had strong feelings of regret over all of it. It’s been a slow process but I have finally come to accept that I didn’t cause this situation. I now know I did the best I could and my intentions were always with pure love. I can’t believe we’ve all made it through a year already. The part that helps me the most is knowing that he’s actually doing quite well considering where he is. He’s acknowledged his mistakes and takes full responsibility for them and through our many conversations I’ve come to the realization that there really wasn’t anything else I could do for him to change the path he was heading down. I believe in my heart that he left here a boy and will come home a man and who is ready to live a healthy life. Every individual’s situation is different and we never know what the eventual outcome will be but we have to have faith that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. My husband and I along with our other two sons will continue to love and “stay close” to him but we all know this is his journey. I’ve stopped blaming myself and beating myself up over his mistakes. I’m sure I’ll always carry a certain amount of regret but I look at my three sons and I know I did the best I could as a mom and it helps me as I work to get through each day.
We, as moms, try our best, but addiction is beastly and takes our children down and wants to destroy the entire family. You are right – regret, blame and guilt don’t help us or our loved ones. We need to stay close and out of the chaos.
Your son is doing well today and we celebrate this victory. You and your family are in my prayers and good thoughts as you move forward.
My love to you,