If you could go back and change what happened before your loved one died, would you?
I’ve thought about that question a lot since my dad died. And it took me a while to figure out my answer.
I hadn’t seen my dad for almost a month when he died. I was starting high school, and as my life started getting busier and busier, it was easier to cut him out of my schedule instead of trying to find a way to fit it all in. The last time my dad called me I didn’t answer, and instead sent a brief text that I barely put any thought into, yet I now think about daily. And the last time I texted him I didn’t say “I love you” at the end.
It seemed obvious to me for a while that, if given the chance, I’d go back and change all of those things. I’d see my dad, call him back, and say I love you. But I was hesitant to say that was my actual answer because something felt… wrong.
A few days ago, I realized something when reconsidering this question. I started thinking about if, hypothetically, I had seen my dad, called him, and said I love you. I started imagining myself at this point and saw myself worrying about if what I said had been correct, if I should’ve spent more time with my dad, and wishing I could go back and redo it again. That’s when it hit me: Even if I had had what I now consider the “perfect” ending with my dad, I would still be regretting something during this stage of my grief. Maybe instead of not seeing my dad I would be regretting something I said to him, or maybe I would be regretting not asking him a question, but no matter what, I would still regret something.
If given the chance, I don’t think I would go back. Even though time travel isn’t actually a thing and I never really had a choice, realizing this has helped me deal with my regrets.
There are so many things that I wish I had said and done when my dad was alive. Realizing that, even if I had said and done all of those things, I would still be regretting something right now, has made me feel a bit better about how things ended with him and me.
No ending is perfect. No matter what happened or what you wished happened when you lost your loved one, you would most likely have regrets no matter what.
It’s okay if you have regrets about things you did (or didn’t do) before your loved one’s death. As you know, I do. Realizing that I’d have regrets no matter what didn’t suddenly make me not regret what happened before my dad’s death, but it made me feel a lot better. I realized that no ending is perfect, so it’s okay that my dad’s wasn’t perfect. When looking back, be kind to yourself, and realize that, no matter what may have happened, your loved one knew how much you loved them, and if they were here right now they’d most likely be telling you that, no matter what happened, it’s okay.
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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Ujesh.