In the years of serving as a youth minister, preaching minister, and now a hospice chaplain, the strongest regrets resonate from those who have lost a loved one to death. I have heard laments from "I wish", "if only", “it's not fair”, and "why?" just to name a few. These regrets can consume a person, stifling their ability to go forward, paralyzing him or her into living a guilt-ridden existence.

Most of us have regrets. We regret a missed opportunity or misconduct perpetrated in the past. Sometimes these feelings escalate into strong regrets, while at others they diminish into minor ones. But no matter what, dealing with regrets is something each of us has to work through.

Here are three thoughts that just maybe you haven't considered before, hopefully, these ideas can become a blessing and an encouragement to you and your family.

Regrets show that you care Never wallow in regrets Use the lessons that regrets teach

These are what we need to contemplate.

If you had no regrets, you would not care. In the case of the death of someone held near and dear, we would be concerned for anyone who claimed a relationship or friendship with the departed but yet has no regrets. The level of love and care we have for our lost loved one is evident by our tender hearts towards their memory. Regrets also demonstrate that we are now fully aware of the missed opportunities. So in a very real sense, regrets are good. If we don't have any regrets we may be calloused and hard-hearted, or simply unaware of the unrealized opportunities that may have slipped by us.

We must beware that regrets have a sad attraction to feel the need to wallow in them. We spank ourselves with these regrets like some sort of whip on our guilty conscious. We bath in their debilitating muck, immersing ourselves in their guilt and gloominess. Wallowing in them is counterproductive. If you lost someone dear, you'll be tempted to wallow in your own self-pity and focus on your regrets, but this robs the person you love of all the other things they accomplished in life. If you focus only on what you didn't do with them instead of them, you are setting yourself up for a lot of hurt and needless pain for the future.

If we viewed guilt and regret as a God-given response to teach us lessons then we are on the upward road of being healed and whole again. Regrets are selfish only if we are not willing to learn from them. They can teach us some imperative things about life and about ourselves. But wallowing in them is purely a selfish endeavor. It keeps us from living, loving and laughing. It keeps us from realizing all the things that we did do and accomplish with this precious loved one that we miss so dearly now. Let’s keep our focus upon what this cherished loved one meant to others and us. Regret can derail this important element in our grieving process.

Regrets show us that we can't afford to miss any more opportunities. If you lost someone close to you, don't let your regrets keep you from those still alive. Take the lessons that you learned and try not to miss any important opportunities to share your heart with others. Spend more time thinking about others. Ask yourself, if so and so died today, what regrets would I have? Better yet, if I died today what regrets would others have towards my life and me with them? Then go out and do something about it; acts of love don’t wallow in past failures. Regrets allow us to realize what is most important in our lives.

Our regrets ought to show us where our values are. We can use that to inspire us for the future. As a responsible, reasonable and caring individual, we can use regrets to motivate us to learn from our mistakes. We all regret some of the things we have done in our lives. I regret some of my choices, but having a loving and forgiving relationship with my family and with God allows me to focus on what I can still accomplish, the things I can still do, and the choices that are still before me. Regrets can be very powerful pro-active stimulus in our lives that can benefit us in wonderful ways if we allow it and be willing to act upon it.

John T. Catrett, III serves as a Chaplain with ONHL Hospice. ONHL Hospice currently provides services to the majority of Northeastern Oklahoma but is available to accept patients statewide. Learn more at http://onhlhospice.com.