She Had No Regrets

By Carol / June 12, 2022 /

“What epitaph do you want on your tombstone?” the workshop facilitator asked. After a little thought, I scribbled down, “She Had No Regrets.”

At that time I’d recently experienced a moment of clarity about my life. I intended to decide what I wanted to do in my life, and I was going to do it. I would continue to care about what other people thought and wanted, but I was no longer going to let their wants override my own. As I looked forward, anything was possible. I would live life fully, grab every opportunity.

I was not, however, thinking about the past. A bit of hubris on my part, as it turns out. Looking back, I realize I have said and done plenty of things in my life that I regret. Things I wish I’d said. Or not said. Things I did. Or didn’t do. Minor and major decisions that hang over me, some of which I have never been able to let go. Some that still hurt my heart. Oh, if I could just erase all of those!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Life regrets and how I’ve dealt with them came to mind because my book club chose Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library to read this month.

In this thought-provoking book, the protagonist Nora Seed’s life has been full of misery and regret. To the point that she decides to end her life. In the split second between life and death, Nora arrives in the Midnight Library.  There she meets a librarian from her youth who gives Nora an opportunity to make things right. Each book in the library represents a world in which Nora made different choices. With the librarian’s help, Nora can undo every decision she regrets and search for her perfect life.

As Nora chooses different lives and works through her regrets, I thought through my own. What if I’d made other choices? Would my life have turned out better? Worse? Or just different? What would I have gained or lost with each different choice? We can’t know every outcome of a different decision, of course, because even the smallest decision can cause big ripples on ourself and on others. As Nora learns.

How we process the moments we regret in our life is, of course, the key. Do we pile regret on regret until we’re spiraling downward and see no way out? Or do we accept that that poorer choices are part of anyone’s life, learn from those moments, and try for better next time?

The Midnight Library is an excellent book club choice. There’s so much wisdom packed within the pages, I’m sure our discussion with be rich and deep. 

Would I still choose “She Had No Regrets” as my epitaph?  It has taken many years to own some of my regrets as the learning experiences they were. Actions and words that have, I hope, taught me to be a more thoughtful, caring, empathetic person. So, maybe yes, maybe no. I’d hate to find it was a decision I regretted.

How do you view regrets? How have regrets had an impact on your life?


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  1. Janet Givens on June 13, 2022 at 5:40 am

    Thought provoking, Carol. Thank you. A regret, to me, is a mistake I’ve not learned from. I think that’s just what you’re saying here. I’ve long loved the saying, “I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m eager to make more.” So yes, perhaps your epitaph would still be appropriate.

    • Carol on June 13, 2022 at 9:17 am

      I love that saying, too, Janet. I certainly learn more from glitches than from when things go well. Though sometimes that learning comes with the sting of regret. Accepting that erring is human is something that’s hard for a person who grew up thinking she had to be perfect!

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on June 13, 2022 at 11:23 am

    Thank you, Carol, that looks like a thought provoking book.. I’m sitting here, thinking about the choices I have made in life. How would my life have turned out differently had I made different choices? I’ve often asked myself that question but I always come back to the thought that no matter what choices I have made, I must live with the consequence of those choices in a life-giving, life-affirming way.

    • Carol on June 13, 2022 at 11:46 am

      Our choices do have consequences. I can look back at my life and see big, turning-point moments, times when a different decision could have led my life in a radically different direction. For most of our lives, though, we’re making countless little choices we don’t spend much time thinking about. Those choices have consequences, too. You’ve hit on what I see as a key point, Elfrieda. Living with the consequences in a life-giving, life-affirming way. Thanks for sharing your life approach. It’s a good one.

      • Madge on June 24, 2022 at 9:39 pm

        For me, as a believer in Christ Jesus, my sins are forgiven and He has separated them from me as far as the east is from the west. But regrets, yes, I have regrets for as you also said, for things said and done that I wish I hadn’t and vice-versa.. But while we do all we can to right wrongs, make amends, God doesn’t always give us do overs.. We accept things that are and live in the peace He gives us.

        • Carol on June 25, 2022 at 8:33 am

          Thanks for joining the discussion, Madge. Even though I was a practicing Christian for most of my life, your last sentence contains what is often the challenge for me: “accept things that are and live in peace.” Throughout my life I’ve seen problems and fixed them. When I can’t … well, there’s the rub. Especially when the problem is having done something that causes me to regret. That problem is, I know, all about personal control. Such it is with us humans.

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