Regrets can paralyze you. They can serve as roadblocks to keep you from moving forward. They can snatch you, suck you back and spiral you down into grief. We all have regrets... it's simply part of living and part of making mistakes, but what we choose to do with those regrets or how we choose to come to terms with them either propels us forward or slams us back.
After my husband's death I dealt with regret on a level that I had previously never experienced. There was so much that couldn't be undone, fixed or changed, so I was just left with all of the 'could have,' 'should have,' and 'would have' beens swirling around in my head.
The accident was one of the biggest issues. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday... I had suggested that Scott take his plane on the trip with his dad. For a long time, that really bothered me. I felt responsible. I wondered, "What if I had not suggested that, and he had just flown commercial? Would I still have my husband?" A good friend pointed out to me one night, when I was crying on the phone about my regrets, that the accident would have simply happened the next time he flew. As I thought about that, I realized that he was going to take the four kids and fly to Omaha for a Nebraska game the following weekend without me. The depressurization of the plane played out in my mind with my husband and four children onboard. My stomach sank at the thought of loosing my entire family. My mind went back to the night before the accident and the quiet assurance that I had had about our family being aright even if something happened to Scott. (Before the Accident) It jumped forward to the phone call the broke the news and the words of peace and comfort that circulated in my head, "This was supposed to happen." All of these things testified to me that this was not my fault and that it was part of a bigger plan that I could not yet see.
I was also tormented by the idea that Scott had missed or ignored the prompting to not get in that plane that night because he didn't want to disappoint me. He knew I was making a special dinner and he didn't want to hurt me or make me mad by missing it. The investigators questioned me, "Why was he in such a hurry to get home? Did he have patients to see or something pressing? Why didn't he just wait another day for the part? What was so important that he needed to leave that night?" They had no idea how their questions ignited my fears. As my heart sunk, I could only respond with the truth, "It was just me. He wanted to get home to me." Then the tears came as I explained about the dinner I had been making. They didn't know what to say. I could feel the uncomfortable silence on the other side of the phone. I hadn't given them the information they needed, but they had confirmed my worst fear. It was all my fault. He got in that plane because of me.
I lived with that conversation for months, going back and forth in my mind between the idea that God had incorporated this tragedy into his great plan for our lives and the thought that I had been the cause of something so very wrong, something that would never be set right and something that would assuredly destroy us. This regret would resurface and cause my stomach to churn. It would start me crying and make me doubt everything good that I had felt.
Finally, I got an answer that gave me some relief. About 4 months out, I attended a conference for young widows and widowers out in Utah where Chris Williams spoke about his pregnant wife and all but two of his children dying in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. His whole talk was touching, but as he described the night of the accident, his words hit me in a different way than anything else he had yet said. He described how it had been a wonderful, fun evening together, and then he told of the feeling of peace and love for his family that came over him right before the impact that would take their lives. My mind went back to my experience and feeling those same feelings before the crash. I listened more intently as he said, "There was no prompting to not get in the car that night. No warning from the spirit came. What happened, God allowed to happen for a greater purpose that I did not yet understand." As he said those words, all of the weight of the regret I had carried fell from me like water running down a roof in a rain storm.
I can't describe how I knew, but deep down the realization pierced me, "They didn't ignore a warning because of me. It simply was not there." I saw them laughing and talking about the fun weekend they had enjoyed together and the cars they had raced. I knew that they had felt peace too, just like I had that night. God had not intervened to stop what was going to take place, instead He brought us feelings of love for one another, comfort and reassurance. He knew that this tragedy would hurt and cripple us, but he knew that it would change and refine us too. He wanted us to gain everything we could learn from this and so He didn't stop it.
I don't know what regrets and guilt plague your mind. Sometimes there are things that we can go back and fix. We can rectify those acts, apologize, make it better the best way we can, and then move forward. But sometimes there are things that we cannot fix. Sometimes there are things that we will never know and those can be the regrets that continue to haunt us and hold us back.
I can't answer those questions for you, I cannot bring you peace, but I can share with you how I found my peace. It didn't come from the investigation or from people assuring me that my fears were unfounded. It came from the spirit speaking peace to my mind. The funny thing was, that is didn't happen when I was on my knees crying out to God to give me understanding. The answers didn't come then, but my prayers were heard. When the time was right and I was ready, I was placed in the path of people who shared their experiences with me. My answers were not found in the words they said, but through them, I was touched on a deeper level and peace and understanding came to my heart.
Those are the answers that carry me. Those are the ones I go back to when I start to fear and spiral down. I remember how I felt. I reread what I wrote about those experiences and I feel it all again. Answers can come, maybe not all of the answers we would like, but the ones that we need to move forward can come if we just pray and ask and then wait. They come often when we don't expect, but if we put ourselves in a place where we can hear and feel those answers, they will come.
Don't live with your regrets. Fix those things you can and pray for help to understand and feel peace about those that are beyond your control. God wants to help us change and move forward. He wants to give us those tender mercies and assurances that keep us going, but He can't if we won't hear and He can't if we aren't prepared. That is what I make my focus now. I try to be in a place where I can get those answers. I am learning how to recognize them better and better.
Does that make all of the pain go completely away?
No, but it does help me to manage it. It helps me to know that I am on the right path. It helps me to know that there is a higher purpose in all of this and that gives me the drive to keep going and looking for ways to make Scott's death make a difference. So that is part of the purpose that I have discovered. Yours may be completely different, but what ever it is, I encourage you to get the answers and peace that will help you let go of your regrets, find purpose and move forward.
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