Grief: Processing Regret, Forgiveness, and Memories of Love
I’ve tried to write this a few times, trying to find the right words to say, hoping that this would be insightful and even helpful. But the truth is, grief is surprising. It is messy and complicated, unpredictable and uncomfortable.
The reason this is so hard for me is because I lost a dear friend in a tragic accident 5 days before Christmas—and I’ve been having a difficult time trying to process this. I’ve experienced death from a distance and even as a support to my husband. I knew in some ways what to expect, but at its deepest level, I wasn’t expecting everything else that came along with it.
In some ways, I feel at peace with my feelings. Yes, there is regret, which I think is a completely normal and justifiable response. But I can’t help but think…if I had just seen her or hugged her or done whatever with her one last time, or about the moments I will never have with her. And then I think of the amount of pain her family is going through. She was only 23. Yes, death is part of life, but 23. That’s just getting started.
I think our regret comes from grieving an illusionary life that we imagined but will never get to come to fruition.
This past year has opened my eyes and my heart to a lot of different practices. One of which is radical forgiveness. This can be done for yourself or for others, but the process is the same. While we have no control over others, we do have control over ourselves. Forgiveness is not for the other person to give; it is a gift to and for yourself. In a situation where you are running multiple scenarios through your head and multiple futures of what could be, this is the time for forgiveness. Forgive yourself for what could not be or for all that you wish you would have been done differently. This is the story of grief; being in this cycle. We will never get another chance with them. Forgive all parts of yourself that you have any guilt about.
My favorite practice is called Ho’oponopono. It is an ancient Hawaiian practice for forgiveness and self-healing. The process was founded and adapted to modern times by Hawaiian Kahuna Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona. It is absolutely fascinating to read about and I will simply summarize how I have used this technique to cope with the loss of my friend.
Step one starts with repentance, “I’m sorry.” For this instance you could say something along the lines of “I am so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you. I am so sorry I wasn’t there for you in a way that you needed.” You are essentially taking the responsibility on to yourself.
Second step is asking for forgiveness. It doesn’t necessarily matter who you are asking, just ask. “Please forgive me” and mean this so deeply. You could follow up with “Please forgive me for (insert situation or scenario).
Third step is expressing gratitude. Simply, “Thank you”. Now with grief, this is where I would shift into the feeling of being able to share in their life. They were a gift to us, for whatever that means to you, express gratitude for being able to share in this physical world with you for the time that they did.
Last step is probably the most important, and that is love. Saying “I love you.” Say this to the person you are experiencing grief over losing. Say this to God or whomever you call to, in times of need. Say it to your friends and family, but also to yourself. Love is the most powerful force in this world and can change the mood in any room. We grieve because we love.
In grief, nothing makes any sense. Time doesn’t exist in your world. Days and weeks, months and years go by and it’s as if you are frozen. Still in the moment where everything in your life crumbled with news that would forever impact your everyday life. You look up at the sky and you see a cloud that reminds you of “that one time…” with your person. Any sense can trigger a memory. A sound, smell, taste, or feel of something can take you back as if it were happening right at that very moment. You are momentarily struck, as if frozen deep in that memory.
And the waves continue to crash as if you never had time to come up for air.
It all starts over.
The sting of reality.
The phone call you want to make to a person that will never pick up.
Realizing the moments that will never be shared together in this physical life. As one walks in our reality and the other glides in the spirit realm.
Words are hard to convey, emotions are even harder.
“It is what it is”
But don’t I wish it could all just be a nightmare I could wake up from.
Grief is something I wish we didn’t have to experience, but as you know, that is life. In some ways, perhaps the process of our loved ones' departure is teaching us something we could never learn if they were here—a catalyst. Though a meaningful and painful one.
Someone passing away can be a point where you can turn your life around. Where you get to embody the very best parts of your loved one and carry that presence around with you wherever you go. The power of truly being present and not regretting any single thing at all.
I think that’s the greatest gift we could ever truly give.
Anyone in grief will tell you things both predictable and unpredictable will make you sad, and in those moments, just remember, grief is only misplaced love and if you feel that emotion, you have the opportunity to share that love with others—keeping a piece of them alive. We sort of are our own bully in this situation and we really don’t have to be. We can’t change what was or what wasn’t. We can only learn and do better with other people. This is a whole process in healing and growing. Practice forgiveness on yourself and others. I promise this will be transformative.
And I will leave you with something that was shared at my friends funeral and it was a perfect summary of how our life force energy continues long after we aren’t able to interact in this world physically. “Light bulbs die, my sweet. I will depart”, from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium which was followed by another saying, “I like to think that it’s just a change of address.” They are always around us because the love we have for them is inside us and that can never be taken from us.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Self Discovery Guide
Sierra is a busy mom to one spunky four-year-old girl and wife to one talented chef. She’s currently working a hybrid full-time job while also completing her Integrative Nutrition degree. Like many others the last few years have prompted many changes, internal growth and a lot pivoting to maintain balance and joy. Adding a practicing health coaching certificate to her existing BA in Psychology only made sense. It was her way of finally being able to help people (namely mothers) prosper in a way that was unique to them. She utilize art as a means to help her clients discover their true joy and purpose while also holding space to heal emotional trauma where words aren’t yet available. Together, they work to find harmony and healing to achieve a balance in their daily life.