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5 Ways to Overcome Mid-Life Regret

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5 Ways to Overcome Mid-Life Regret

Cynthia Occelli knew that something was wrong with her husband—his headaches were just too persistent to be benign. Yet, after a visit to his doctor resulted in a convincing diagnosis of tension headaches, she and her husband went home.

The aneurism struck the very next day.

It wiped out Occelli’s husband’s short-term memory, leaving his recollections of life with her, “garbled and incomplete—like Swiss cheese.”

The experience of caring for a husband who had suddenly become as dependent on her as her children tested Occelli in ways she never expected.

“There is no harder job in the world than caregiving,” says Occelli, a life coach and author of the book, Resurrecting Venus. “It’s almost too bizarre to comprehend.”

Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve…

Occelli uses the word “searing” to describe the remorse she used to feel when looking back on the day she and her husband walked out of the doctor’s office, unaware that their lives would be upended just a few hours later. “I knew something was wrong—but his doctor was so definitive,” she says.

But, regret isn’t limited to life and death circumstances—it comes in many shapes and sizes—and often strikes hardest when we reach middle-age.

We look back and begin to lament the paths not taken, the relationships not pursued, the careers left abandoned because we were called to become mothers, fathers and caregivers.

“We get to a certain point where we wake up one day and think, ‘I should have accomplished something by now—but I haven’t,’” says Alex Lickerman, M.D., author of “The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing An Indestructible Self.”

Finding rebirth in remorse

It was Occelli’s experience in the neurological ICU where her husband was receiving treatment that helped her put out the destructive inferno of remorse that threatened to engulf her.

Getting to know the families of other patients in the ward and watching them come and go as their loved ones passed gave her an enlightened view of the brief nature of life. “The number one wish of people in there [the neurological ICU] is that they had more time to live and be true to themselves,” she says. “I knew that’s what I wanted, and the experience was a call to take it seriously. It gave me a sense of urgency and helped me find my path a lot quicker.”

She and Lickerman offer five strategies for shaking off regret and re-discovering your life path:

Embrace your humanity: “When you feel regret, give yourself a pat on the back—it means you’re emotionally normal,” Occelli says. Only sociopaths are free from remorseful sentiments and accepting your emotions—no matter what they may be—is the first step to dealing with them effectively. It does no good to ignore your thoughts, or stuff your feelings.

Recognize and challenge unproductive thoughts: People prone to regret often look back on their lives and see unrealized potential and unfulfilled dreams. But, it’s impossible to prove that the life you left un-lived would be better than the one you have today. Every life path has its potholes–the challenge is to rise above the negativity. Studies have shown that human happiness is not determined by circumstances themselves as much as by how we interpret and respond to those circumstances. Instead of ruminating about the past, Occelli suggests channeling your imagination into dreams of a better future.

Keep reading to uncover 3 more strategies for dealing with regret…


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5 Ways to Overcome Mid-Life Regret originally appeared on

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Read more: Guidance, Inspiration, Life, Peace, Self-Help, Spirit, , , , , , , , ,

By Anne-Marie Botek, Editor

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7:03AM PST on Feb 7, 2013

A very good post indeed. Finding inspiration in a loved-one's brain trauma is a heroic bit of self-understanding. However, I want to say something completely different: I am now "legally old," and enjoying every minute (except the annoying physical debilities and the unreliable memory) because mid-life regret is behind me. The "golden years" might be made of tin, but they are full of a whole life and there can be great reassurance in that. And it's shareable. And, with luck, won't last too long.

5:20PM PST on Jan 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing!

1:45PM PST on Jan 26, 2013

Regret, I have none, not that I don't miss people from my childhood, or friends with whom I no longer speak I grateful for every situation in my life, for every person who touched my life in one way or the other, whether he made me smile, or cried they have contributed to my life, this is my story, I will not regret anything in the story I'm writing, I take full responsibility for all my actions. taken responsibility, understanding how things grew from a seed level, makes me filled with grace, and humility. Thank you for everyone who touched my soul. You made me a better person.

8:22PM PST on Jan 22, 2013

I am going to share this article with a loved one...who just hit the big 40 and that proverbial wall of regret... then cross my fingers it helps.

8:20PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

Well said, thanks for sharing.

9:39PM PST on Jan 20, 2013

nice post, thanks! good things to think on...

5:34PM PST on Jan 20, 2013

Dramatic and unexpected life changes are certainly opportunities to reassess how one is living one's life. Are we being true to ourselves, are we proud of who we are and how we spend our time? After my first big life changing experience I wrote myself a list of things to do every day. It included such simple things as kiss my husband, take time to feel gratitude, put my hands in the soil, do one good thing for my body, do one good thing for my spiritual wellbeing, practice one act of kindness be it to myself, a stranger, the planet, whoever. Simple acts helped me to live a life true to myself, true to the memory of my loved one who had gone, true to the blessings of life.

10:18AM PST on Jan 20, 2013

not easy to find really supportive people...
many will just try to inflict their ideas on you, and get annoyed when you do not do what they say...

7:00AM PST on Jan 20, 2013

We just don't know what's coming next. Best wishes to Cynthea and her family.

10:59PM PST on Jan 19, 2013

Nice , Good post , Something to reflect on .

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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