Letting Go of Guilt and Regret: Grieving Well Series Part 3


I wish I would have spent more time with my brother while he was alive. I wish I would have called him more often. I wish I would have listened better.

Dealing with guilt and regret can be a difficult hurdle in the grieving process.

The truth is, most of us have things we wish we would have done. And some of us have genuine guilt over things we did or did not do.

There is a difference between guilt and regret.  

We are human and make mistakes that can seem more pronounced after someone dies. Guilt and regret are normal emotions during the grieving process. Often the distinction between the two seems rather muddy. Knowing the difference helps with the coping and healing process.

Guilt can occur when we consciously commit an offense against someone.

Regret, on the other hand, happens when we look back on something that we wish we would have done differently.

However, both guilt and regret have the potential of making us miserable and stuck. So, if both situations can make us feel cruddy, then why not just lump them both in the same category?

The work we need to do around guilt will look different.

In order to grieve well, we must work through difficult emotions.

Working Through Guilt

Remember, guilt stems from a conscious offense committed against someone.

Take our guilt to God.

When we sin against another, we first sin against the Lord. We must confess the offense to God for healing to begin.

“Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.”
Psalm 51:4

God does not condemn and shame us. 

God will convict us in order to heal us. Conviction leads us to God and healing.

Condemnation is from Satan. Condemnation points out our wrongs without offering forgiveness or a solution.

Accept God’s forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 says that if we repent and confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us.

When God gives forgiveness, that’s the end of it. 

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions.” 
Psalm 103:12

“You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Micah 7:19

Forgive ourselves. 

Easier said than done, right? But if the Lord can forgive us, we must forgive ourselves in order to move forward. This does not mean we condone bad behavior. It simply means we have aligned ourselves with the truth of God’s word about our forgiveness. We can also ask the Lord to help us forgive ourselves. He understands and is faithful to help.

When our thoughts remind us of the guilt (and they will), we must:

  • Take the thought captive before it leads to more. (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • Expose it as a lie contrary to God’s word.
  • Speak out loud the truth of God’s word (Scriptures above).

Working Through Regret

Remember, regret is something we wish we would have done differently.

Let’s be honest. We all have regrets. Those quotes with the pretty pictures on Facebook that say otherwise are a crock. I mean it. So, let’s just let those go, okay?

Most of us will have regrets after a loved one dies. But staying in a place of regret will delay our healing. Grieving well means we must let go of regret.

Acknowledge your regret to God. 

Tell the Lord what you wish you would have done. I like to journal. I wrote to God and to my brother about what I wish I would have done differently.

Grow from the regret. 

God can work in regret to fuel growth.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I wish I would have spent more time with my brother. I will grow from this by making relationships more of a priority in my life. I wrote about my relationship goals in my journal, too.

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” Henry David Thoreau

Shoulda, woulda, couldas are the devil. 

The devil loves to point out what we should have done. Just like with condemning and guilty thoughts, we must take these thoughts captive.

As I’m traversing the grieving process, I have come to savor its fruit. Yes, there is fruit if we will look for it. This is how we will grieve well.

My friend, God is especially close to those who are grieving. It is my prayer that you will experience His sweet presence in a new and tangible way.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I’d love to hear your thoughts and prayer requests in the comments below.


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14 thoughts on “Letting Go of Guilt and Regret: Grieving Well Series Part 3”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful series Ms. Beckie. Especially when we stop to realize you are writing it from the middle of the grief journey my young friend. Well said, guilt and regret are two different coins, not two sides of the same coin. In my life, I’ve found a common treatment for both of them is to answer this one question. “Did they know that I loved them?” As God’s word teaches us, love overcomes a multitude of sins. If we could ask our loved ones who’s gone before us (and some day, we might just have that chance), will they remember our guilt over something we may have done to them, will they have regrets that we didn’t do more for them, or will they remember only how we loved them. #ChooseLove my friend. God’s blessings and lots of prayers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beckie, I can’t begin to tell you how comforting and enlightening your series on grief has been for me these past weeks. When I get back to blogging, I’ll be sharing the grief I’ve endured as my daughter and her husband have moved to South Carolina with the three grand-girls. Virginia and I have been joined at the hip almost since the day she was born. Just the thought that I can’t have her over on a weekend has been enough to cripple me emotionally. Yes, the grieving process is difficult, but your words and thoughts have done so much to help me through this time.
    Praying for you and yours!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Martha, Somehow I missed that your grand-girls were moving! Oh, my heart. I’m so pleased that anything I have written has helped with this grieving process. I’ll keep you in prayers, my sweet friend. I know it’s difficult when the kids move!
      Thank you for your prayers and kindness. I look forward to your upcoming posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Powerful truths, Beckie. Like how you said this about regrets: “Shoulda, woulda, couldas are the devil.” So true and so good. I’m thankful God is especially close to those who are grieving. While I’m grieving the loss of something I thought was sacred and secure, I needed the reminder of Psalm 34:18.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Karen, There is nothing more comforting than the Lord’s sweet presence and of course, His comforting word. I’m blessed that He used anything in this post to draw you closer to Him.
      Still praying, dear sister! ❤


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