Everyone has at least one regret in their life that they wish, more than anything, that they could undo. Perhaps you wish that you could un-say some harsh words to a loved one. Maybe you broke something out of anger that can’t be fixed. What if you cheated on your spouse and threw away your marriage in a moment of weakness?
How do you live a full life when you have regrets that you can’t forget? How do you forgive yourself when you hurt yourself, but more importantly, the people who you love the most? After years of self-hatred and despair, I can tell you that it’s possible to forgive yourself. You can move on from that moment, while becoming a much better person than you were before.
My biggest moment of regret happened in 2007. I was a 23-year-old new mother, to a beautiful but very sick baby girl named Lahna. I’ve written about her struggles in a previous post. To say that I was struggling is a gross understatement. While I had the support of my geographically distanced family, my co-workers and my Mississippi Man, mentally I was falling apart.
I had no indication before Lahna’s birth that she was anything but healthy. I thought she’d be born in one of those movie type births, where I got to hold my loudly crying baby on my chest right after birth. She would quickly calm and I’d feed her, look up at my husband with tears in my eyes and feel whole.
That isn’t what happened at all though. Mississippi Man wasn’t with me when Lahna was born via emergency cesarean. She didn’t cry loudly when she was born, because she couldn’t breathe. The only tears in my eyes were of terror, as I asked “Why isn’t she crying?”.
The weeks that followed included waking up, heading to the NICU and spending my day by her incubator. The neonatal doctor, nurses and respiratory therapists would try to explain her condition to us, but we didn’t really understand what they had said. We would go home in the evening and get online, researching all of the terms we had heard that day. After struggling to sleep at night, we started the routine again every day.
I was terrified that all of the hopes and dreams for my daughter’s life would go unfulfilled. Lahna would never learn how to ride a bike. She would never walk down the stairs and receive a gasp of her beauty on prom night. Her daddy would never be able to walk her down the aisle.
I was trying to keep it together and look calm. I worried that I’d look like I was being overly dramatic if I were to break down. It was hard.
I began to drink alcohol with my lunch in order to relax and take a break. Then every night I drank an entire bottle of wine by myself. I’ve always been a light weight…alcohol had never been a big part of my life before that moment. It was casual and fun.
No one ever called me out for how much I was drinking. It didn’t interfere with taking care of my daughter or things that needed done. Even though I was using alcohol to cope with problems, I wasn’t concerned…until it interfered too much.
One night I drank way too much. I fell asleep completely drunk. When I woke up the next morning my stomach was too upset, and I wasn’t able to go to the hospital. I couldn’t go see Lahna until the afternoon.
I was able to go in the afternoon, but knowing my baby had limited time and I wasn’t able to care for her because of my drinking destroyed me. I quit drinking completely after that.
When she died, I hated that I had wasted a half day of her life because of my drunkenness. It may not seem like much, but when you consider that she only lived for 57 days…it was a large percentage of her life.
I regret that I wasn’t there for her. I was a shitty mother who never deserved such a precious angel for my daughter. Forgiveness? No, never.
About 8 years went on this way. I was able to smile again, and lived a normal life, but the thought was always there. I was a horrible fuck up of a person.
Very slowly, I began to realize that everyone has these moments. I would forgive my own mother if she had a moment like this. I would show compassion and understanding to a friend. People are doing the best as they can.
I began to show myself the compassion and love that I would show to others. I began to mother myself. Not because my own mother wouldn’t, but because the shame was too great for me to share.
If (God forbid) I was in the same situation today, I would handle things much differently. I did the best that I could at the time.
Today I live a full life, although I will always remember my mistakes. I learned valuable lessons from drinking too much that night. I haven’t consumed alcohol and gotten sick since that night, and cherish the time that spent with my kids. Compassion and understanding are in my heart for others, as well as myself. If it weren’t for my regret, I wouldn’t be the woman who I am today.
I urge you to forgive yourself. Be understanding towards yourself, as you would for a loved one if the roles were reversed. I don’t know what your regret is. I hope that what ever it is that you did, that you are a much better person today because of that mistake. Live a full and happy life, and have peace. Although you may have regrets that you can’t forget, they don’t determine who you are anymore.