Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Can We Do About the Past?

Recently one of the heartfelt comments on one of our blog entries inspired me to write about regret. Regret can weigh so heavily on us, nearly paralyze us at times, and can so negatively impact and color our lives, that, in essence, we get stuck in the past. And yet... there is not one thing we can do to change the past.

Click here to hear Stephanie Schmidt, an inspiring Procovery Circle Facilitator in St. Louis, MO speak about this.
In essence what we can do is to look at the past, learn from the past, but not LIVE in the past. Instead, live today, right now, this moment. And in doing so, we plant the much needed seeds for growth and change. By living in the moment and being truly present we can honor "mistakes" we have made by learning from them, by not repeating them and by being different now because of them.

Letting go of regret and getting unstuck can be so very difficult. It can feel overwhelmingly complicated at times, and very heavy and sad. But by learning to let go and by living today, we can honor yesterday and contribute to a brighter tomorrow.

"The best revenge is living well."

--The Talmud


  1. Gosh, I really needed to read this. Thank you for posting this is such a beautiful way and reminding us of this.

  2. Working at Self Help Center I have realized that when we ask ourselves the question "Why" that we are often living in the past. Our pain is still too fresh in our minds.

    A lover cheats. Why?
    A job is lost. Why?
    A friend passes. Why?
    A child becomes I'll. Why?
    We survive a trauma. Why?

    We must allow ourselves to grieve and yes, even to become angry, but we must move forward. We must look at what we can do to learn to deal appropriately with the "Why's".

    As an example we lost a participant to suicide. This woman was such a success. She was a psychiatric nurse by training and really was meant to be a caregiver. The symptoms of her bi-polar disorder turned her life upside down. She went for years suffering terrible bouts of depression in which she would be hospitalized for long periods of time. This would be followed by extreme manic episodes in which she would go non stop.

    Finally a medication was found that controlled her depression. She returned to work as a personal care nurse, which was fine until the mania hit and she would pick up extra shifts and work more hours than allowed while being on disability.

    I remember the celebration when she reached the one year milestone of not being hospitalized for her depression. She was so filled with joy. She spoke of caring for her patient and how she enjoyed life again.

    It wasn't much later that we were told of her suicide. Her therapist came to the Center to help us through the grieving process. We were all hit hard and asked over and over "Why?"

    Why didn't we see the signs?
    Why now when things seemed to be going so good for her?
    Why, why, why?

    We found that her working too much set off a red flag at the SSDI office and a demand for repayment of tens of thousands if dollars was made. She lost hope. She suffered with questions. She list her struggle.

    I had to learn how to move forward and not live in the past. We can celebrate who she was by doing more to understand suicide. We have since used her loss to do so by becoming trained in suicide intervention, to talk openly about suicidal thoughts and even discuss with those who have survived attempts. We do this in her memory in an attempt to help others who may find themselves asking why.

    Angel gave me her friendship and provided me the reason to move forward and do more to help others. Her giving spirit lives with us every day and others may not be aware that our food pantry, Angel's Place, is named for her and a statue of an angel greets everyone who visits our center.

    Thank you Angel for my lesson that has helped me to save lives. I wish I could have known then what I know now.

  3. Thanks for addressing this. I love what Stephanie had to say about 'the rear view mirror', and I do get it about moving forward. I would like to know what tips you have for learning from the past so we don't repeat.