A Due Date for Regrets


Sad Puppy

To live, it seems, is to accumulate at least some regrets.

Thomas Gilovich & Victoria Husted

The Experience of Regret: What, When, and Why


Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.

Arthur Miller

The Ride Down Mt. Morgan


No second chances

There are fewer and fewer

second chances

with each passing year.


There is no going back.

No following my dream.

No decades of fulfillment awaiting me.


There will be no Carnegie Hall.

There will be no Olympic Gold.

There will be no villa in the Rockies.


I have run my race.

Stumbled some.

Crossed the finish line with dignity.


There is another realm-

The inner world

crafted by joy and hurt.


The world where souls are wounded,

healed or scarred,

by words and deeds.


The window for regret

is closing –



There will be no second chance

To say, “I forgive you.”

To say, “ I love you.”

To say, “Come for tea.”


Ever wish you hadn’t said what you just said? Or, ever wish you had spoken up when you were silent? Have you missed an investment opportunity or made an investment that you regret? Ever wondered “what if” about a relationship or a career move?

Regret is the lingering feeling that we have made a wrong decision, chosen an unfulfilling career path, failed at a relationship, made poor use of time, or neglected our health.  

To live fully is to have regrets; they are part of the human condition. Life has continuous forks in the road. They might be momentary missteps that pass quickly into the “oh well” category or they may be major decisions that took you on an irrevocable path.  

Those who confidently say “I have no regrets” are either in denial or have “put lipstick on” their perceived mistakes.

Why reflect on regret at all? Many regrets are simple lessons of life. Other regrets may haunt our present and contaminate our future. Exploring regrets can be a doorway to living life more fully. 


Kinds of regrets

There are regrets that stem from action and regrets that stem from inaction. There are regrets that stem from circumstances that were under our control or from circumstances that were not.

We can have BIG regrets or little “oops’. Taking a wrong turn on a freeway and being late is very different than lying to a loved one. There are regrets that involve just ourselves and regrets that involve others. Some regrets can be remediated; other regrets are not eligible for a “re-do”.

The “if only” regrets are often related to timing. If only I had had the funds to go to college. If only we had met sooner. If only I hadn’t been so busy. If only the pandemic hadn’t closed us down. If only I hadn’t missed that plane. If only I had taken that chance.

What regrets do you experience or revisit? Notice if there is a pattern.

  • Are they regrets of commission or omission?
  • To what degree were the circumstances under your control?
  • Is it a BIG regret or an “oops?”
  • Is it something you did or something that happened to you?
  • Who does the regret involve?


The price of regret

Regret is a form of self-imposed suffering, the consequences of which can lead to depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and decision making based on emotion. Regrets serve little purpose except to invite us to review our intentions and behaviors. Yesterday cannot be relived except in your mind.

Making peace with regrets

We tend to idealize the road not taken. Too many of our ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’ are a result of looking at the missed opportunity as if there was no down side to the path we didn’t take.

Making peace with regret means finding a rightful place in our mind and heart for what is already in the past. A rightful place  doesn’t mean denying the event/fact or dismissing the associated feelings. It means understanding the root of the regret and acknowledging the need to accept what has passed.

It means examining the regret for possible opportunities to do things differently. It may mean choosing to apologize to someone if the regret involves a hurt that you imposed. It may mean forgiving yourself for falling short of perfection.

Paths not taken

Research suggests that actions, or errors of commission, generate more regret in the short term; but inactions, or errors of omission, produce more regret in the long run.

Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Less Travelled  reminds us that we have a choice. Read his poem and the background about the author and the meaning that has been ascribed to his poem.

Frank Sinatra’s in his classic “ My Way sings about our choice to live life our way.


Writing strategy: Poetry


If I could explain it, I wouldn’t have to write a poem.

author unknown

A poem is not a problem to be solved. It is a voice within us that speaks a truth about what we experience or observe. Poets and poems tell the truth about what it means to be human. Listen and you may hear your inner poet whispering words of regret.


If I could do it again

If I could do it again,

would I skip

an immature marriage,

or was it

an immature husband?

You bet I would.


If I could do it again,

would I spend ten years

in demanding study

to make the income

of a plumber?

You bet I would.


If I could do it again,

would I still be a New Democrat

voting for forty years

for the runner up?

Would I still be

for social justice,

fair wages,

equal access to healthcare?

You bet I would.


If I could do it again,

would I work less,

read more,

take more walks?

Would I spend more time

with a mother

who left us early?

You bet I would.


If I could do it again,

would I have remarried

if I had known

my honeymoon

would be in a cardiac care unit?

Would I have taken the chance,

knowing I was walking

the widow’s walk.

You bet I would.

Invitation to write a poem

Haven’t thought of yourself as a poet? Experiment. You may be surprised. 


Need an opening line?


            I regret…

            I wish I had…

            If only…

            I will never know…

            I will always wonder…

            If I could do it again…


Poetry Reading References:

           Poetry as reflection: Writing Poetry to Save Your Life by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

            For older people: I Never Told Anybody by Kenneth Koch

            Why poetry is good for our health

           For youth: Writing with at Risk Youth by Richard Gold


Photo question of the month:


What have you done for which you have no regrets?


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