I was talking with a man recently who’d been caring for his dying father. “I left him to take care of some personal business,” he said. “I knew I shouldn’t have gone because something inside told me not to go. But I didn’t listen. My father died while I was gone.”


The word originates from Old French, regreter, ‘bewail (the dead),’ feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, esp. a loss or missed opportunity. “If only I’d been a better sister, brother, wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son, or friend. . .”

“If only I’d said a, b or c.”

“If only I hadn’t said a, b or c.”

Get the picture?

Take a moment to think about something you regret, something you didn’t do that you think you should have. Choose something meaningful, something with substance. Get a clear image or sense of it.

Now tune in to your thoughts. What do you tell yourself about it? Say it out loud, then write it down. Don’t read on until you’ve written it down, because I want to point something out.

Okay, now please tune into your feelings: How do your thoughts make you feel?

As you thought about the regret, I wonder if you noticed that your mind automatically assumed things would have turned out better if you’d done whatever it was you didn’t do.

We assume an untruth when we’re in the throes of regret. We assume that what we regret—the thing we should have done but didn’t—would have turned out better than the actual outcome. But how can we possibly know with certainty?

We can’t.

Next time you catch yourself in a pool of regret, remember that you’re making a huge assumption. Truth be told, you don’t know how things would have turned out. Our minds, however, tend to idealize what isn’t in lieu of what is. “If only . . . ” is the accompanying refrain.

Here are some conscious assumptions/affirmations that I make that you may find helpful as well:

– Life is occurring in divine order regardless of my judgments about it: facilitates me in owning and releasing my judgments so that I can embrace what is.
– I am free to perceive that everything that happens is ultimately for my highest good: allows me to view the glass, not just as half-full, but full-to-overflowing.
– We’re 100% responsible for our own experience: provides me with the power to cease blaming and to change.
– Every event provides an opportunity to grow spiritually: facilitates me in looking for, and discovering, value and growth in the most challenging of circumstances.

Our feelings are generated by our thoughts and our thoughts are generated by our beliefs. If you want to feel differently, you have to think differently and in order to think differently you have to challenge and change your beliefs. Releasing what no longer serves you—assumptions, limiting beliefs, conditioned patterns, misinterpretations and judgments—allows you to grow spiritually.

And guess what? When you change within, life has a way of showing up differently. Outer experience is a reflection of inner reality. Now, I’m not advocating that you shouldn’t grieve when a loved one transitions. On the contrary. If you’re present to sadness, give yourself permission to cry all of your tears. But living with regret is unnecessary suffering.

I began this article by sharing about a man who’d been caring for his dying father. “I left him to take care of some personal business,” he said. “I knew I shouldn’t have gone because something inside told me not to go. But I didn’t listen. My father died while I was gone.”

I could hear the regret and guilt in the way his voice lowered and trailed off. Can you see how regret was showing up in the way I just described? In his mind things would have turned out better if he’d been there when his father transitioned. In his mind, that’s how it should have happened. But, I ask you: how can we possibly know with certainty?

“It was wrong of me to have left. I should have been there for him.”

“Let’s take this out of the arena of right/wrong,” I said. “From a spiritual perspective, we can’t judge it because we don’t know. What if, on some level—and for the highest good of all concerned—you and your dad agreed that his passing would play out this way? What might your soul want you to learn from the experience?”

He paused. “I guess my soul would want me to learn to listen to myself.”

“What a beautiful gift your father’s given you. Would you be willing to receive it and be thankful for it? If I were a gambling person, I’d bet that’s what he’d want for you.”

“But he died alone.”

“I have a friend who was by herself when she transitioned. She told me, through a medium, that it was precisely how she wanted it. She didn’t want to share the experience with anyone in physical form. Would you be willing to consider the possibility that it’s how your father may have wanted it, too?”

“That never occurred to me.”

“And although we all make the transition from physical to spiritual on our own, are we ever really alone? I don’t think so.”

The session continued a bit longer, but can you feel the energy start to free up? The next time you find yourself deep in regret, remember to question your assumptions. No matter what you’ve done . . . or haven’t . . . you are lovable and worthy . . . and all is well.
Copyright © 2009 by Irene Kendig

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Irene Kendig

Irene Kendig is an accomplished speaker, workshop facilitator, self-acceptance coach, and award-winning author. She is a trained NLP Practitioner and certified Hypnotherapist, with a B.A. cum laude in Psychology from UCLA and an M.A. in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica (USM). As a self-acceptance coach, Irene assists clients in identifying the judgments, misconceptions, and limiting beliefs that are the source of unnecessary suffering, and then facilitates healing through compassionate self-forgiveness, an elegant and graceful way of embracing what is, and a process at the very heart of Spiritual Psychology. Irene is dedicated to living and sharing the gifts of Spiritual Psychology, and is part of a team of USM graduate volunteers who have been bringing these principles and experiential practices to women inmates at one of the largest maximum security women’s prisons in the world, Valley State Prison for Women. The program has been nominated for a national award that recognizes excellence in prison reform programs. “Freedom to Choose,” a moving, 22-minute documentary that conveys the power of this work, was a winner in the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Irene is the author of Conversations with Jerry and Other People I Thought Were Dead: Seven compelling dialogues that will transform the way you think about dying . . . and living. Released in April 2010, the book has won three national awards. Ms. Kendig has taught communication skills in both family and corporate settings. As a certified instructor for Parent Effectiveness Training (PET), she has presented programs to parents in the U.S. as well as in Latin America. As a senior corporate trainer for an international management consulting firm, she has delivered customer satisfaction, team building, and problem-solving training to a wide array of companies, including AAA, American Express, Avis, Lufthansa, Marriott, Oracle, Telecheck, Trane, and Tumi, with satisfaction ratings consistently over 95%. Ms. Kendig has also taught presentation skills to managers in Corporate America and is fluent in Spanish. She is the proud mother of two adult sons, David and Josh, and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband Charles and their dog Scooter.

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