Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant, Speaker and Writer

On Love, Death, and No Regrets

Love, Grief and no regrets

Have you ever lost someone important in your life?

Someone you loved dearly.

Who one day was there, and then just…gone?

It’s a hard thing to bear.

Every little thing reminds you of them – from a song to a television programme, to a certain kind of shirt. From an accent to a model of car, to the scent of their aftershave on someone else.

We all have losses in our lives of different types, but death can be the toughest loss to bear, because of its very finality. Whatever your beliefs about what happens after death, there’s no doubt you won’t see the person again in the here and now.

This week, my granddad passed away after a short but difficult illness.

On the one hand, his death was a blessing. He didn’t want to live in a diminished way – his body was no longer serving him.

Eventually his body gave up, and his spirit faded away.

Eight years ago next month, my Dad died. His was a sudden death – it came out of nowhere, in his mid-fifties, and was a devastating loss for my family.

Two different kinds of deaths: one expected; one a shock.

Neither were easy.

Seeing my Grandad wither away physically gave me a permanent lump in my throat. I felt gratitude I had time to sit with him, as I’ve come back from Chiang Mai to the UK to be with my family, but each day was harder as the realisation of what was going to happen became more clear.

Hearing the news about my Father on a quiet sunday evening on a call which interrupted nothing more than ironing and herbal tea, shattered my world. Knowing my Dad didn’t suffer was a blessing, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have traded a little suffering for more time with him.

No. Neither was easy.

How would you relate to someone if this was the last time you would see them?

If there is one thing that these deaths have taught me, it’s to see the bigger picture in my relationships.

I wouldn’t say I live every day as if those I love might die, but I am conscious each time I spend time with someone I love that that time is a gift.

That the world isn’t fair, or ordered, and that there’s plenty I can’t control, like who gets ill, or who lives and dies.

But there are some things I can control.

I can control how I react when I’m angry.

I can control how I show my love and gratitude to the people around me.

I can control whether I show kindness or cruelty when I’m frustrated.

I can control how I deal with difficult emotions.

I can control the words I use to express myself.

I can control whether I blow things out of proportion or deal with them and move on.

I can control whether I act like a petulant child or an open-hearted adult.

Don’t Set Yourself Up For Regrets

If I have one wish for you, it’s that you never experience the regret of wishing you had treated someone differently when it’s too late.

Do this difficult thought-exercise:

Think about someone with whom you’re currently annoyed, frustrated or angry.

How would you feel about these emotions, and the way you’ve handled them, if they died before you next saw them?

What perspective on the issue does this give you? How much does the issue matter to you with this new perspective?

If it’s still an issue, how can you deal with it in a mature way and move on? What can you do to resolve it and have a healthy relationship?

What can you do, today, to make sure you have no regrets?

Go do it.

Because you never know when it will be too late.

14 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Cat August 11, 2015, 10:01 pm

    Lovely post and wise words. Very sorry for your loss. Hope you’re okay.

    Thinking of you.

    Love and hugs xx

    • Ellen August 12, 2015, 8:45 am

      Thanks Cat, I appreciate that x

  • Lea Bullen August 13, 2015, 12:48 am

    Hi Ellen,

    I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your grandpa. I know it must be tough. I too have dealt with both kinds of death and as you said, even expecting it doesn’t make it easier.

    You make an excellent point. I think due to what I’ve been through with loss, it’s the reason why I like to clear up any issues I have with anyone as soon as possible. You just don’t want to have that in your heart should someone pass.

    My condolences again,
    Lea Bullen recently posted…8 Questions You Really Need to Answer for a Happy LifeMy Profile

    • Ellen August 18, 2015, 8:54 pm

      Thanks so much for your thoughts Lea. It’s definitely not the easy road in the short term to try and clear things up with people, as you say, but in the long term, it can make a huge difference.

      Appreciate you sharing your experience. Take care x

  • frances oleary October 6, 2015, 10:24 am

    Dear Ellen

    My thoughts go out to you at this very difficult time. Have you ever read ‘ Death is nothing at all’ by Canon Scott Holland?
    I found it very supportive and comforting at the time of my Mother’s death

    Every best wish Frances

    • Ellen October 6, 2015, 12:43 pm

      Thank you so much Frances, I really appreciate that. I haven’t seen that book (and I’ve just checked and it’s not available on kindle), but I will keep an eye out for it.

      Be well, Ellen x

  • Elle November 9, 2015, 3:32 pm

    So sorry for your loss Ellen. I love your idea of changing perspectives in our day to day experiences. I know from experience how a little shift in our viewpoint can make a huge difference in our experience. :-)
    Elle recently posted…4 Habits to Help You Get Through the Worst Times of Your LifeMy Profile

    • Ellen November 12, 2015, 10:42 am

      Thanks Elle. It really can make a difference, even though sometimes it feels almost impossible to see things through another lens. But even treating it like a game ‘what if’ can make a difference to how we see the world on a difficult day. Wishing you better times x

  • Debbie Hampton November 9, 2015, 3:51 pm


    Thank you for this heart felt and thought provoking post.I lost my brother 21 years ago to AIDs after taking care of him for two years. It was heartbreaking, but I do so appreciate the ways in which I got to say good bye. I have also experienced the shock of sudden loss.

    It’s never easy when someone we love dies. It does make me more cognizant of living in a way that I’m at peace with my behavior in my close relationships. And makes me more aware of the dualism of life. It’s all part of it.

    Love and light to you.
    Debbie Hampton recently posted…How To Make Friends With Your MindMy Profile

    • Ellen November 12, 2015, 10:41 am

      Thank you Debbie, and I’m so sorry for your own tough story. As you say, the difficult and the sad are all a part of us, no matter what we wish, and integrating that into a whole life is part of our journey, but never easy. It’s a constant work in progress.

  • Sandra Pawula November 9, 2015, 5:12 pm

    Very poignant, Ellen. Living with regrets is like wearing a heavy coat. I think we can control all those emotional states you speak of but it’s a process that takes time. So I also feel it’s important to be gentle with ourselves as we learn to master our mind and emotions. There will still be many days we slip up. A sweet apology can help.

    Thanks for sharing so deeply and your wise advice.
    Sandra Pawula recently posted…Why Do You Do What You Do?My Profile

    • Ellen November 12, 2015, 10:32 am

      Thank you Sandra, and I so agree that we need to be gentle with ourselves around this. It’s a challenging – whilst rewarding – path to walk.

  • leadership qualities March 30, 2016, 2:19 am

    Hi, loved your post. It is very thought provoking and it made me realize that life is short, unexpected things happen, I once read an article that says” Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what you know in your heart you were meant to do”, so live our lives to the fullest, share our blessings, let the people around you know that you care. Thanks for sharing. Great Read.
    leadership qualities recently posted…#AskNoahStJohn Show EpisodeMy Profile

    • Ellen April 1, 2016, 8:22 pm

      Thanks you, I really appreciate you reading this one – it’s a very personal one for me <3

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