Today we have a special guest, Krista St-Germain. She is a life coach and expert on grief and post traumatic growth. She works with widowed moms and I am so honored she stopped by to share her wisdom with us.
Regret is something that is very common in grief. Today we talk about the difference between guilt and regret and how to recognize them when they show up.
Krista teaches us how to deal with regret, first by allowing it,
then identifying the thoughts that are causing it,
deciding if they are useful to us,
and then choosing intentionally what we want to think.
She reassures us that regret is normal and not a problem and then explains that if we can believe it’s possible that you can find some peace if that is what you want.
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Find out more about Krista here: https://www.coachingwithkrista.com/
Or follow her on instagram @lifecoachkrista
Music by Zingdog on Pond5
Photo provided by Krista St-Germain
Welcome everybody to this episode. We have a special guest for you that I’m so excited for you to hear from. Her name is Krista St. Germaine, and she is an amazing life coach who was certified through the life Coach school and she works with widowed moms and helps them build their life after loss. She’s an expert on grief and also post-traumatic growth, which I love.
And she has a great podcast called The Widowed Moms Podcast, which I totally recommend ’cause I think we overlap a lot in what we’re teaching as we grieve. ’cause grief is so unique, but so universal too. So, welcome, Krista. Thank you so much for having me, Amy. Okay. So I’m just gonna talk a little bit about what happened with your husband, Hugo.
So, yeah. Was it three years ago about, yeah, a little over three years now. It was August of 2016. Yep. We were, um, we had been on a trip for the weekend and we had both driven separately on that trip. It’s a program that I’ve been doing for almost 20 years now. But we had been on this, um, weekend trip and we were on our way back and we were almost home.
We were not, not quite inside the county that we live in. And I had a flat tire. And so I pulled over to the side of the road and um, got out and he kind of pulled up behind me and turned his flashing lights on. And, um, I had AAA but stubborn. Man that he was, you know, he wanted to take care of the tire himself and he said, baby, I just wanna, you know, it’ll take so long for them to get here.
And changing a tire is just, it’s, I can do it faster. And then, you know, we’ll go home and we can cuddle on the couch and, you know, have a glass of wine. And so, um, I decided, okay, we’ll change the tire. It felt really scary to me though, because, I mean, it was, you know, 70 mile per hour cars driving by. But, so I got out of, um, I got kind of went over into the grass and went to text my daughter to let her know, ’cause she’d been on the trip with us.
But she was, um, on the bus with the other kids on the way back to let her know that we were gonna be late and he was getting in the trunk of my car in between my car and his car and he was trying to get the spare tire out. And I was looking down at my phone and just. No breaks, no warning. Somebody who we later found out had meth and alcohol in his system, crashed into the back of Hugo’s car and trapped him in between his car and my car and it, so it just happened really fast and it wasn’t even, it wasn’t even 24 hours and he was just gone.
So that’s what kind of led me to grief work was just my own. Really unexpected experience with it. And you know, I did the therapy thing right afterwards. I’d had a therapist that I loved and went immediately back to her, and that really helped me just get. Of back to functioning. And so I think the feedback I was consistently getting from people is, oh, you’re so strong.
You’re doing so well. You know, you can, you can, you know, maybe your listeners relate to this where you, everybody thinks from the outside that you’re handling it. And you kind of are handling it in a way because you’re going through the motions. You’re, you’re maintaining, you know, the, the, the to-do list is getting done.
The kids are getting fed, like things are happening, but on the inside you do not feel fine. And so that’s kind of where I was. And when my therapist said, I don’t think you need me anymore, I thought, okay, well there’s gotta be something else. Because I really did think that I would never truly be happy again.
I. My dreams had died. He had died. All my happiness, all my future thoughts were about him. And so I just started trying to figure out what else was out there. And I started reading and researching. Post-traumatic growth was completely new to me. I didn’t even know that existed. Um, and so I started learning about that, and I started learning about.
Cognitive behavioral coaching tools, which are the type of tools that I use with my clients and I know that you use with yours. And then I had a really powerful coaching experience and it was just such a game changer that I thought, okay, this is, this is the work I need to do in the world. So that’s what I did.
And I’m so sorry. Still that story just touches me every time. I’ve heard it before, but, well, thank you. I appreciate that. But you know, it is what it is. We are where we are. Before we jump into our topic today, I wanted to ask you, I like to start my episodes. I have my listeners send in stories of their baby’s life because a lot of times, especially you work with grief.
I work grief. It’s a lot about the death. So could you just quickly tell us something about Hugo, like things that made you laugh or a funny memory or just. What made you fall in love with him? He was so fantastic. So he was French Canadian, first of all. So he, his first language was French and English was his second language, and he had the most beautiful accent, but also, um, we teased him mercilessly because his French accent was so strong that there were some words that when he said them, people didn’t understand what he was saying.
So we always still joke whenever we go to a restaurant and we order anything that. Um, like a steak, if we order it medium or if we order, um, a drink like a size medium, because when he said it, it came out medium and nobody could understand it. So, um, I have a lot of hilarious memories of, you know, giving him a hard time about his accent.
Also, just a really brilliant, you know, he was a, an electrical engineer, just a really brilliant kind of renaissance guy who could talk to you about anything. Um, but also incredibly intelligent and sarcastic and great laugh. Yeah, he was, he was a gift. That’s awesome. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. We are gonna talk about regret today.
Mm-hmm. And would you just start by telling us a little bit, We get a little confused about guilt and regret, they kind of mix together. We kinda use it interchangeably, but how would you differentiate those? So the, the main difference, and I think usually people will say guilt when what they actually mean is regret.
Um, so what I find is that, um, you know, we’re just using the wrong terminology, so, Something we’ve done that at the time when we did it, we did it with the intention of not doing right. Right. Guilt is something that comes about when we have taken an action that at the time we did it, we really didn’t believe it was the wrong thing, the right thing to do, but we did it anyway.
So it has, um, blame or a deservedness quality about it. Whereas regret is something that, When we go back and we reimagine what happened, we know that we did it to the best of our ability, given the information that we had. We were trying to do a good job. We did the best job we knew, you know, to do at the time, based on the information that we had, but now with a different perspective.
Different information. We wish we could go back and do it differently. We would do it differently if we could because now we can see it differently. So guilt is really, eh, we did it, but we didn’t do it knowing it was the right thing to do. Right. That and, and sometimes people are keeping guilt upon themselves when really what I think they’re experiencing is regret.
Yeah, that’s a really helpful way to look at it. So what were some of the regrets that you had after Hugo’s death? Yeah, tons. Um, so all kinds of regrets about the actual accident. So, for instance, you know where I. I pulled up on the highway, I really regretted that particular place to park it. It was off the highway.
It was, you know, safe according to the highway patrol who investigated it. But my thought was always like, oh, I regret that. I, if I had just pulled up farther right on the highway, maybe a, a more open stretch instead of that kind of more narrow space on the shoulder of the road. Could I have gone before the trip and had my tires checked out like there was something I did wrong?
The tire itself, like it was my fault because it had gone flat. So I really regretted, you know, my, just my car maintenance decisions. And then I regretted the time that we left on the trip, you know, if we had, just because that was, I was the one kind of determining when we left, if I had just been five minutes earlier, or maybe if I had just waited five minutes or if I had, you know, gone a different.
Speed. Um, just all of those things. Um, then even in the hospital, you know, regretted some of the decisions that I made in the hospital and, you know, tried to blame myself for some of that. Just all of it. I regretted even. The nine one one call for a while because I was so disoriented that I didn’t really know where on the highway I was.
And I beat myself up a lot for how long it took me to figure out the nearest exit sign. ’cause I, I was just so panicked that I couldn’t see it. And um, so you name it. And I was kind of beating myself up with it. Yeah. And yeah, I think again, it’s just, it’s so common in grief. Um, for a lot of my listeners, there’s tons of regrets.
I had regrets. We went on a bumpy four-wheel drive road before Lauren died and I thought, oh, for sure. Like, I broke her placenta, I caused it. There were lots of things. So a lot of ’em will. Regret that they didn’t take a lot of bump pictures. Mm-hmm. Because they don’t like how they look in pictures. So they regret they didn’t take pictures.
Mm-hmm. Maybe they weren’t paying attention to the baby. They weren’t counting kicks. If they would’ve counted, if they would’ve paid attention, they might’ve been able to save their baby. Yeah. They regret not being healthy enough that they didn’t eat right or they didn’t exercise if, if their body right.
There’s a lot of regrets about. Our body when we’re the one carrying the pregnancy. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Um, that we should have done things differently so that our body would’ve functioned better and yeah, our baby would’ve lived. Um, and then there’s some that are pretty difficult too, that would seem even more difficult.
Like they flush their baby down the toilet. They were afraid to look what happened after, you know, they didn’t know what to do and they just flushed the baby, or mm-hmm. Um, I’ve heard a lot of SID’S moms who their baby was really fussy and not sleeping, and then they finally got them to sleep and they were grateful.
They were just grateful that that baby was quiet and finally resting. And then of course, go in to find out that, you know, what had happened. So, What can you tell us about these regrets, like where do they come from and why are they so common for us during grief? Yeah, so I think that’s such a great question because I don’t think probably most of us pause long enough to ask that question and the answer is really important.
So regret is just a feeling. Right. It’s an emotion and all emotions, all feelings are caused by our thinking thoughts that we have. And so what I think often happens if we really don’t know this information is that we get caught in a trap where we believe that the only way to stop feeling regret is to go back and be able to change what happened.
And, and because none of us, at least I don’t, maybe some of your listeners do, but none of us have magic powers that I’m aware of. We can’t go back and we can’t change it, and so we just kind of think it’s gonna be the new normal and we just need to get used to it and adjust to just carrying that emotion around with us.
But that it’s just so. Not true. Once we understand that regret is just a feeling and all feelings are caused by thought, so what’s causing the pain, causing the regret isn’t what happened. It’s not what we, you know, did or didn’t do, or, you know, whatever we think we should have done and didn’t. It’s really just a sentence in our brain.
It’s telling us, right? A sentence. I should have done it differently. I could have done it differently. I wish I’d done it differently. That’s what’s causing us to feel regret. It’s just thoughts. And so even though we can’t go back and change the past, it doesn’t even matter because what we can do is change the way that we talk to ourselves about it now, and so we can figure out what are those.
Mean things that I’m saying to myself that really aren’t very useful and then we can say, we can stop that. We can change the sentences and change the thoughts, challenge them, right? And create something different emotionally that is not regret if we don’t wanna feel it anymore. Right? So if people are sitting, listening, saying, okay.
What does that even look like? How do I do that? What are some tips or some pointers you can give to people who are maybe at that point where they’re ready to let go of some of that regret and stop suffering with it? Like what can they do? So I think it’s important whenever we have an emotion that we understand first and develop the skill of how to actually allow it and process it, right?
If we, if we currently have the emotion, we don’t wanna try to run away from it, and we’re never really gonna be able to change what’s causing it until we allow it to run its course. So if you’ve, if you’re in the middle of, you know, a wave of regret, Which of course is caused by your thinking, but if it’s there, then you wanna open up to it and allow it to be there, right?
Feelings are just vibrations in our body caused by our thoughts and when we can just let them run their course and not make them mean that there’s anything wrong with us, or that we’ve done anything wrong, or that, you know, things are really off track, but that emotions are just part of the human experience.
We can process them. We can let them run their course. So I always wanna preface. Anytime we wanna change something with first allowing what is right. Yeah, we have to start there. But then what we wanna do is we wanna figure out, and I think it’s best to do this in writing, what is the sentence or what are the sentences that are causing us to feel regrets?
What are we telling ourselves? So for me it was, I should have pulled up further on the highway. I should have insisted we called aaa. So what are the sentences that you are thinking that you really don’t see as optional, but that are creating this experience of regret for you? And the reason I suggest that people write it down is because, If our brain is the instrument, the unintentional thoughts that our brain is offering us are the instrument that’s causing the problem.
Then we can’t really solve it at the same level in which it was created. We have to put it on a piece of paper so we can look at that piece of paper and we can see, oh, these are the sentences that I don’t think are optional. I’ve been thinking them for a long time, but these are the sentences that are creating this regret for me.
They’re just a series of words strung together, and I’ve been thinking them long enough that my brain has decided that it’s the easy, efficient. Way to think about what has happened. And so they show up in my mind and I don’t even challenge them. And when we see them in black and white, then we can challenge those sentences.
We can say, wait a minute, is this useful to me? I know it feels true and I know my brain has lots of evidence that it, that it is true because that’s what good brains do, right? They go and find evidence of our thinking. I know it feels true, and I know I have lots of reasons why I could keep believing it.
But do I want this thought in my life? Is it useful to me? Does it create more of what I want or less of what I want? And if we don’t like the thought, We see it in black and white and we determine that it’s not useful, then we can go about the work of replacing it and deciding how do we wanna think about something that has happened in the past that we no longer can go back and change, right?
And that if we continue to keep thinking about it the way that we are, are gonna keep ourselves stuck. It’s really good to notice there’s a lot of shoulds. What are some of those absolutely. Those things that you can kind of pick out that like this is a regret. It’s those should words. I wish. Um, anything else?
Anything with a word? Yeah, anything with the word should in it. I, I think is um, is usually gonna be a sign of regret. Could have, I always call it the should have, would or could have, right? Yeah, should have, could have, would have. Um, are usually great things and sometimes the way you can spot it is, It’s just the, the feeling that you’re feeling, right?
You may not be able to actually see the sentence first. You have to notice when you’re feeling that feeling of regrets, and then dig in a little bit deeper and go, just, why am I feeling this way? What am I telling myself? And it will usually come out, what else can we do? So feeling our emotions and then kind of putting those thoughts down on paper.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. And then seeing what it is, seeing the, the thought that’s causing it. Running it through that kind of litmus test of, is it useful because this is the challenge, really. You won’t believe that it’s optional. When you find that sentence, you will find it and then you will think, but it’s true.
And so we can’t use the litmus test of truth as a reason to keep a thought or to change a thought because all thoughts that we have thought long enough will feel true. No exceptions. That’s just the brain doing what it does. So you can’t go with, is it true you have to go with does it serve my life? Is it useful?
And I don’t think that there’s really anything particularly useful about regret. Now, if there’s something you can learn from it, let’s learn. Right? Let’s, let’s see if there’s a lesson that actually can be applied to life going forward. But chances are that it’s really not something that’s serving you.
And so you wanna figure out, okay, this is what I have been thinking. What do I wanna think? And then go towards, you know, the, the intentional practice of consciously choosing your thoughts, which for a lot of people, requires help. Right. I know. This is why I do what I do. This is probably something you spend a lot of time working with your clients on, is the process of.
Creating new neural pathways in your brain, like thinking new thoughts on purpose, and it requires intention and practice and consistency and repetition. Tell us a little bit, what does that look like in your life to, to let go of these regrets, if we’re ready and we wanna do it, how, how do you describe that to someone who right now is thinking there’s just no way I could change this.
It’s just so, mm-hmm. Painful and it’s always gonna be like that. Yeah. Yeah. I think first you have to want to, right. You have to believe in the, the possibility that it, even though you don’t know how to do it, you have to believe it’s possible that you could, and then you have to decide that you want to, right?
And, and that in and of itself is really powerful because whenever we have a habitual thought pattern, right? So, Somebody’s been thinking something that’s generated regret and they’ve been thinking it for a long time. It takes a while to change that thought pattern. And so that old, unhelpful unuseful thought is gonna keep popping up in their mind.
And so we have to be on the lookout for it. We have to be expecting it, and we have to decide on purpose in advance and practice what we actually do wanna think instead, but. Be on the lookout for that old thought and when it comes up, notice it and go, oh aha. You know, there it is again. Just because it showed up in my brain doesn’t mean I have to listen.
And you, you kind of begin to use your brain as a tool and instead of just. Thinking, whatever it offers you, you use it as a tool to start deciding in advance and on purpose what you wanna think. And there are, you know, lots of different techniques of how we can, you know, help people do this, right.
Probably more than we wanna go through on a podcast. But it is a process. It requires commitment and you need to decide that you wanna do it and then work towards it. So I just wanted to tell a little bit. I was lucky enough to get to work with Krista on some of my big regrets that I had with my miscarriage with River, and one of the biggest regrets I had was that we had sent the baby for testing and there was a mix up in the lab and I had this thought that kept coming up that.
Basically, I’d thrown my baby in the garbage into medical waste for no reason, because we didn’t get any answers, we didn’t get a gender, and that was really painful for me, and that it had been almost two years of really suffering with that thought and regretting and wishing it had been different.
Wishing everything had mm-hmm. Gone differently. Mm-hmm. By the time I was able to coach with Krista, I was ready, like you said, ready to let go. And I think what was really helpful for me was, like you said, recognizing that I didn’t have to believe that anymore. Mm-hmm. That I could let go of it and decide differently how I wanted to feel about myself as a mom to river because.
That’s kind of what it comes down to, right? Is that we failed as a mom. We didn’t protect our baby. Yeah. But you don’t have to think that. And so for me now, it’s been about a year. Mm-hmm. What it looks like for me is, yeah, sometimes those things come in, like those thoughts and I just allow them and kind of let them pass through.
But it definitely doesn’t bring up the amount of pain. Suffering, and I’m not doing the things that I was doing to try to avoid that suffering. Mm-hmm. And so it’s just a lot more peaceful for me. And that was kind of my goal as I went into coaching with you, was I, I wanted peace and just bringing up those thoughts, looking them straight in the face, and then deciding I didn’t wanna keep them anymore, and realizing I didn’t have to.
Yes. It was so freeing and so amazing, so I just, I’m always so grateful to you for helping me with that because Totally my pleasure. It’s been amazing. Like, and so for everybody listening, I just want to tell you that it’s possible. Mm-hmm. It’s possible when you’re ready and when you work. I’m not gonna say it’s always easy, right?
I definitely cried and. All the things. Yeah. And kind of just let it all out, and then was able to heal from there so much more effectively. Mm-hmm. In closing, just what last thought would you say to a mom who’s listening to this right now who does have regrets, and maybe she’s at that point where she’s thinking she wants to let go of some of them.
What can we tell her as she moves forward on this journey? Yeah. Yeah. I think she’s done nothing wrong because she’s feeling regret, you know? It is part of our human experience. The full range of emotions are, she doesn’t have to to to change. She doesn’t want to. Right. There’s no shoulds in grief. Yes.
Healing if she wants to, it’s her option. She can put down those thoughts that are causing the pain. And pick up some other thoughts. And the other thing I think is important too, and I don’t know how often you see it, but I know I see it on a regular basis, is somehow we seem to get this idea of if I don’t feel regret anymore, that I won’t feel connected.
To the person that I lost. Yes, definitely. And so I think sometimes we, or, and it can be other emotions, it’s not just regret, but we, we tend to kind of believe that somehow that painful emotion that we’re experiencing is our connection. And I wanna really challenge that, that you, you can still feel just as connected and you can, you know, love your baby just as much as you ever did.
Without, without experiencing regret on a regular basis. And you don’t, those things aren’t mutually exclusive. Yeah. And I’m so glad you brought that up ’cause it definitely is really common. Mm-hmm. To, to feel that like I shouldn’t Yeah. Feel what does it mean? Yeah. What does it mean about me as a mom if I don’t feel regret?
Yes. Exactly. Yeah. That it’s so, it’s so painful to, to stay with those thoughts. They just keep us so stuck and so trapped. Thank you so much, Krisa. My pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on. I’m glad for all the work that you’re doing in the world, Amy. It’s really important. Okay. It really is. Yeah.
Thank you. Mm-hmm. Isn’t she the best? I had so much fun recording this episode with Krista, so thank you again. I hope it was really helpful for you. If you have some regrets you are tired of carrying, I’d love to help you take a look at them. I’ll put a link in the show notes, or you can find me on Instagram at amy dot Smooth Stones Coaching.
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