Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


What Do I Do When the Person I Want to Reconcile with is Dead?

Jan 27, 2019

I got an important question from a reader a while back. We‘ll call her Mary. (not her real name)

I know others struggle with this question, so I asked Mary if I could answer it in public and she graciously said yes.

Here’s Mary’s question –

“I have a problem with reconciliation. I will never be able to reconcile with two people who have passed away. Is there something I can to do relieve my regrets, knowing that I will never be able to talk to them again in this life?”

I’ve included my answer below – for Mary and you if this is a struggle for you too.

My Answer

Dear Mary,

Thanks for sharing your question. You’re not alone. In fact, far from it.

Regret has kept me up at night and it prevented me from being present and even enjoying moments in my life too. You might be interested to know that researchers have even found that the older we get, our biggest regrets become the things we didn’t do and the opportunities we didn’t take. Not reconciling fits that category perfectly.

I have good news and bad news for you regarding what you can do. The good news is there are some things you can do. The bad news is they may not get you where you want to go.

The Good News About Reconciliation and Regret

Let’s deal with the good news first. You can do something. You can do everything which depends on you.

This includes forgiving the other person. Like I talk about in my guide, It’s Not What You Think, forgiveness only requires one person and it really is about us finding freedom. So, I’d encourage you to begin working on forgiving the other person if you haven’t.

One tool I’ve found to be helpful involves writing a letter acknowledging what the person did, how that made you feel, and why it was so painful. You can include in the letter your statement abandoning revenge and letting go of bitterness.

It may be helpful to read the letter aloud, imagining the person can hear you release them from the bondage of your bitterness.

Last year, a friend of mine wrote this kind of note to her mom who had passed away. She described the abuse she experienced, which her mom didn’t prevent and the impact it had on her. She chose to forgive her mom, while not condoning or justifying her actions. Releasing this bitterness and forgiveness was transformative for my friend.

So, that was the good news.

The Bad News About Reconciliation and Regret

Now, here’s the bad news. You cannot experience reconciliation without these people who died because reconciliation requires both parties. My friend could forgive her mom, but she couldn’t reconcile the relationship.

For all of us, beginning the forgiveness process includes surrendering the outcome. Even if the other person is living, we may not get to reconcile and it may not be healthy to reconcile.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12, where he writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” If you can genuinely come to the place where you forgive them, then if they’re gone…that’s as far it depends on you.

It is easy to focus on regret and our desire that the past be different than it actually is. But I’d encourage you to work through the forgiveness process and begin surrendering the outcome.

A.J. Cronin wrote, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, but only saps today of its strength.” I’d say something similar about regret. Regret seeks to change the pain of the past, but in doing so, it prevents us from experiencing the joy of the present.

I know you want to experience this kind of joy. And I think you can experience that kind of joy when you’ve truly forgiven the people who hurt you who are no longer alive.

I hope this helps. And I’m praying you choose to not only forgive these people each day until you find freedom, I’m also praying that you choose to reject regret and pursue joy.


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