Living beyond regret

A feeling often accompanied by sadness, shame, and guilt; regret is when you wish you had done things differently in your past.

Regret is a sticky-fingered monster that exists only in hindsight. If you’re not conscious of it, the sticky spreads everywhere. If you ignore it, the sticky hardens. But if you acknowledge it, it remains warm, malleable, manageable. Perhaps time allows you to wipe more of it away.

When Mom first texted us that she was in the ER on Saturday, July 8, my newborn was barely a week old. I had been home from the hospital just four days. My sister-in-law went to the ER and sat with Mom while the doctors checked her out. I regret that I was not there for her that day.

When the doctors released Mom that same day, my SIL and brother brought her to our house. Her skin was tinged yellow from the jaundice. She seemed very tired. She was not eating. I regret believing the ER doctors words instead of the instincts that told me something still wasn’t quite right.

Sunday we saw Mom again. She was still tired. She still wasn’t eating. She was a little wobbly on her feet. She said she was depressed. I had a fleeting thought that she should go back to the hospital and get checked out again. I regret brushing that thought off so quickly. 

Monday morning was more of the same, with the added symptom of vomiting. My brother took Mom back to the ER and she was admitted to the hospital that afternoon. I regret thinking, “If she’d been taking better care of herself, we wouldn’t be in this place now.”

My visits to the hospital Monday and Tuesday were short and sporadic. I had my newborn and did not want him in the hospital. I wasn’t able to drive. I just wanted to be at home snuggling with my baby, not worrying about Mom. I had feelings of guilt being pulled in both directions. I wanted to be in both places and neither place. I could not devote full attention to either. I regret my feelings of guilt, annoyance, irritation.

My sister drove back from her family vacation in Colorado Tuesday night, having cut it a day short to come see Mom. She was there at the hospital Wednesday morning when I arrived. Mom started the doctor-prescribed Rituximab treatment on Wednesday. It was a six-hour transfusion. I stayed for the first part of it. The nurses asked Mom to report any symptoms she developed as the transfusion began. Twice over the next couple hours, Mom put her hand to her forehead and seemed to scrunch her face in discomfort. Twice I asked her if her head hurt. Twice she said no. I mentioned it to the nurse once, who asked Mom the same question and then brushed it off as “no big deal.” I regret not pushing the issue and asking more direct questions or for a second opinion.

I left early afternoon to go spend time with Lincoln. I told Mom I loved her and hugged her, as I usually did, and told her that I’d see her later. I regret my last words to her conscious form were not more heartfelt.

Wednesday afternoon Mom had her stroke. I was not there when it happened. I regret not being there for her again.

As family, friends, and strangers came to visit Mom despite her unresponsiveness, I marveled at how many lives Mom had touched. And regretted I had not known about that part of her life more truly.

The causes of regret, and all the “what ifs” that accompany it, will always be there. They are in the past, unchangeable. My work now is living with them all. Understanding that, even if I had done one step differently and it had somehow allowed Mom to survive this ordeal, it did not occur and it never will and there is not one thing I can do to change any of it. I must learn to be at peace with my actions; to let time heal and let those regrets fall away.

Sometimes, in moments of grief, this prayer gives me peace.


2 thoughts on “Living beyond regret

  1. Love, love the Native American prayer. I’m sure you know, dear Sarah, that false guilt / regret is one of the side effects of grief. None of us could have changed the outcome. It was not your fault in any way. Your Mama would have wanted you to take care of Lincoln and Mabel. May you heal in peace. Love you!


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