MLT Podcast Ep  5  Shoulda Woulda Coulda – Living with Regret

MLT Podcast Ep 5 Shoulda Woulda Coulda – Living with Regret

welcome to the mean lady talking podcast
this is the podcast that tackles tough questions about relationships life love
and loss it may not be the advice you want but is probably the advice you need
and now here’s your host grief therapist motivational speaker relationship expert
best-selling author and attorney and not really mean mean lady yourself Susan J
Elliott good day everybody and welcome to the mean lady talking podcast my name
is Susan Elliott and I am the host of the podcast and it’s a Tuesday show so
today we’re going to do a topic if you want to submit a topic to me you can
write me at mean lady talking podcast at you could go to the mean lady
talking podcast page you can go to the getting past your breakup calm page
there’s a thing there that says there’s a page that has all of the podcasts
listed and you can write in there you can tweet to me at meme podcast on
Twitter I’d love to hear from you but one of the things that I wanted to talk
about today is regret regret is something that people feel
when a relationship ends when something happens that you don’t know that you did
the right thing at the time they also call it shoulda woulda coulda and when
you live in the shitter woulda coulda you really narrow your life scope and if
you remember one of the things that I talk about and if you’re new to the
podcast if you’re new to the GP ypg pyb philosophy you’ll learn this soon one of
the things that gpy p and g py b teaches is that when you resolve your unresolved
grief and when you grieve and when you grieve any changes in your life as they
happen any losses in your life as they happen you expand your life
and we talk about healthy relationships and a healthy relationship is one which
enlarges your life not narrows it an unresolved grief and regret and guilt
all of that stuff narrows your life scope so you can’t get into a healthy
relationship because a healthy relationship is both a springboard to a
happy life where you have hobbies interests and friends and it’s also a
shelter in the storm a healthy relationship enlarges your life it’s not
just about you and the relationship it’s about you and the world and the
relationship is a very important part of that world but it’s still just part of
the world it’s not your whole life a healthy relationship would never be your
whole life so I’m gonna talk about what a coulda shoulda I wrote an article on
my blog I usually published it every February and this year was a little late
due to some things happening but it’s called journey from abuse and it talks
about me leaving my first marriage and what actually drove me to leave I’m one
of the things that drove me to leave was I had lost my job
in January I had had enough in September and I was gonna leave then but my
husband talked me into not leaving because of the holidays we had always
done a lot of holiday stuff together we had always shopped for Christmas
ornaments together we always made a big deal out of the holidays so he said to
me that was something that hooked me and he said you’re gonna do this to the kids
right before the holidays and I was like oh my goodness oh my goodness I mean my
youngest was just turned 4 what was going to turn 4 I couldn’t deal with
that and I was right dysfunctional and I didn’t really know but in January I lost
my job and every time I was out of work he cheated on me he became abusive he
did lots of things that he never did when I was working and had financial
means so he became very nasty toward me during the month of January and I had
decided that I had had enough of the few times and I’m talking about going out on
maternity leave I still had a job to go back to and as soon as I would go back
to jobs he was nice as anything when I
wasn’t working and I didn’t have any financial means he suddenly got very
nasty so I was poised for it in January I knew it was coming and he kept
needling me and needling me and needling me and I decided in my head I’m not
giving him the satisfaction of getting a rise out of me
and I remember I changed the wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom and I knew
nothing about wallpaper I knew nothing about hanging wallpaper but we both had
always thought that the wallpaper in the bathroom that was off the kitchen was
hideous so I took it all down and he saw that I had taken the other wallpaper
down and I was sanding the walls I mean doing all this well I have three kids to
take care of how to get two of them to school I had to look for a job how to
clean the house how to cook and now I’m doing wallpaper which I’d never done
before in my life he was convinced that my mother who wallpaper and everything
was coming over during the day and helping me and I kept saying she’s not
she’s not coming over but he was needling me and I wasn’t quite sure if
he was needling me if he was needling me because he really believes my mother was
doing it or he was just trying to make me crazy
and get into a fight with and I was just refusing to play I had been sucked in so
many other times and I wasn’t in therapy yet and I really didn’t know the
expression that my therapist gave me later on the only way to win is not to
play the game I didn’t know any of that yet but I just didn’t want to get into
it with him that was always craziness whenever I wasn’t working and it didn’t
matter why I went out of work you know if I went out for maternity leave or you
know whatever it’s like it didn’t matter to him so I was trying to ignore him and
if you read my story the journey of abuse he went and dragged the kids
downstairs to pick up one fisher-price toy that was lodged in a couch couldn’t
even see it the whole playroom was swept vacuumed everything was away everything
was dusted and this is when you have three little kids and
marched the five-year-old in the four-year-old down to pick up this one
fisher-price toy and then the next night he wants to do it again and I realized
that the abuse was now being targeted toward the kids to get a rise out of me
and usually when he came home when he worked second shift I would take the dog
and put the dog in the yard max was a big red Doberman and I talked about max
in the story journey to abuse I just wanted to put max in the yard in case my
ex you know ever got crazy with me I didn’t want Mexico after him well this
night I was so worried about the kids that I forgot about max and when he
started up the stairs and I made sure there was nothing nothing in the in the
playroom I I went through all the cushions
there was nothing I’m convinced to this day that he planted that toy and he was
just going up to get the kids to get a rise out of me and I ran up the stairs
in front of him and I threw myself in front of the boys door and I’m like
you’re not marching those kids downstairs and as I was doing that he
was pulling me off the door and he was a lot bigger than me he was five foot ten
and a half I’m five foot one he was probably about 175 180 pounds and I was
like a hundred and ten so it was quite a size difference so he’s pulling me off
the door and I’m I’ve got my feet wet on the bottom I’m not taking them off and
as he’s pulling me off I realized max was behind him and Max is going after
him max was a Doberman but he was a one-person dog and I was that person so
max is going after him and I’m trying to make sure that this ruckus is not waking
up the boys so he finally gets me away from the door
pulls me and he pulls me down the stairs and as he pulled me down the stairs I
hung on to the banister and I hung on and hung on and hung on until I couldn’t
hang on anymore because he was pulling at me and I swung around and my face hit
the newel post and I heard something in my face crack and I looked because I was
dazed I go I saw star I was in a lot of pain I mean a pain
shot right through my head later on he would tell me that that was my fault
that I shouldn’t have hung on to the banister not that he shouldn’t have
pulled me off the banister but that I shouldn’t have hung on I should just let
him pull me down the stairs so I was dazed and I was standing there on the
landing I had no idea how to get to the boys I thought he went back for the boys
and I can’t I looked up and he had put his belt around Max’s neck and was
pulling him down the stairs with the belt and I was trying to shake off the
feeling that I had I was just dazed and and I was running after him and when we
got to the bottom of the stairs I grabbed the arm that had max he had max
like off the floor with his belt and Max weighed like 80 pounds it was a big dog
and I was like oh my god he’s killing him and so he dropped max when I went
after his arm I hung on his arm with all of my might and he dropped the he
dropped the belt and max ran into the corner and then I ran in front of him
to keep him from getting to him and then he was so angry at me because I wouldn’t
let him get to max poor max was just shaking that he stormed out well we went
through a lot me the boys max we went through a lot but that was when I made
the decision to leave when the abuse was coming down to my kids and my dog to get
a rise out of man and that got a rise out of me all of that got a rise out of
me and I realized I think there was just no stopping him like he would just keep
doing things like this he was gonna kill my dog and probably injure my children
so I had to leave and I left very shortly afterwards I had his stuff
packed that night but he kept coming in the house at all hours of the day and
night so I left I left with the boys and then I went back for max so then we had
a house that I rented and then it was the house that I bought so this was over
a period of a couple of years and I finally had a house that had this nice
beautiful backyard it was two acres of rolling grass and I had a boyfriend who
was really good with animals he had never had a dog before his mother said
that he was afraid of dogs she was one of these in meshing parents who didn’t
want the child to show any affection anything else and when they were
thinking about getting a dog he was so excited and he was gonna show this dog
affection and she just went crazy and so she got rid of the dog said that she had
hives because of the dog and he was always afraid of dogs because he she
told him from an early age that he was afraid of dogs so I show up with an 80
Pam red Doberman well he moved he loved that dog loved that dog and my boyfriend
was like six foot one and these long legs and he would run the length of the
yard and max would run with him and he would call him bounding oof so he’d be
running with the dog and I would think you know what max really deserves to
have a place like this you know it’s like we’ve been through a lot all of us
have been through a lot it was a nice house
everything was fine everything was lovely after a few years of turmoil I
would sit at the dining room table and I look out at the yard and I’d see my
boyfriend and my dog running on the lawn and I miss is the way that it should be
this is so peaceful and so nice and I’m standing near about two years into this
we’re living in this house and I’m in the dining room and I look at max one
day and he had a lump on his leg and I was like oh my god and I took him to the
vet and turned out that he had bone cancer and I was devastated he was 6
years old and I had had a Doberman for a short time beforehand there’s a whole
other story of me and my ax we bought that we bought a three family house and
the people there thought that we wouldn’t come into their apartment and
they left their red Doberman in there we kicked down the door and took the dog
and she was 13 so I had expected that max would live to at least ten that was
pretty average age for a dog and he was six not yet seven and he was a rescue so
I wasn’t quite sure of his age but when I got him he was still a puppy
and I’d had him about six years so he was still a puppy when I got him I was
flipping out so they went to they took me to Tufts veterinary school which is
one of the top veterinary schools in the country and a woman that I worked with
actually had her dog her dog had gone through an amputation of the leg that
had the the bone cancer and then she went through chemo and radiation and I
watched all these films and all these dogs and I was so devastated that the
thought of losing max and that he like he needed to live longer and and have a
better life but like yeah I wanted him to have a better life for more years
than he had a bad life so I talked to the vet the vet was wonderful everybody
at the hospital was wonderful it was going to cost me a few thousand dollars
but they were helping me with the bill we went through and Max had the
amputation and everybody told me that dogs get used to the amputation very
quickly but he didn’t seem to be getting used to but very quickly he got stuck in
the couch one day and I had to pull him out
and he had a bandage is still on and everything and I had to pull him out and
I sat and cried I’m so sorry honey I’m so sorry
like I couldn’t explain to him why I had his leg amputated so then I brought him
for chemo and as soon as I got him home I just knew that something was wrong and
the vet told me that I could expect if he didn’t get any treatment that he
would die within a year probably more like six months so he told me if you do
nothing you’re gonna have him for another six months to a year if you go
to this treatment the average dog lives three more years he had gone through all
the tests but something was wrong something was really wrong so I took him
back to the vet and the vet said his kidneys are shutting down there was an
undetected kidney problem and when the first treatment of chemo was given it
just destroyed his kidneys so they kept him overnight to see if there was
something they could do for him called me in the morning and he said hey
not gonna make it and he said I think that it’s time to put him down and I
said we’ll wait for me to get there and he’s like you’re coming here and I was
like yes of course I’m not letting my dog die alone so I went there and they
had max in a little room you know all the dogs had their own little room and
he was laying on a little blanket and and little dog bad and when he saw me
his little tail went and I put my I sat down with him and my boyfriend was there
and the vet was there and I stayed with him for about 15 minutes just stroking
his head and then I said okay and he had his head on my lap and the vet put him
to sleep and this is I think this is 94 that this happened and it’s 2018 so it’s
almost 25 years later he could probably imagine what I was like on that day I
just felt like he was always there for me and I had done something terrible to
him instead of having it for six months to a year I had him for two weeks after
the bone cancer was discovered and I felt like I failed him in every single
way and it was my responsibility you take a rescue dogs it’s your
responsibility to make sure that dog lives a good life and I felt I had
exposed him to an abuser although I got out but things were rough what we first
got out all of us who had it rough we didn’t have it really good until we
moved into that house he moved into that house like 92 and max died in 94 and I
felt like he didn’t have enough of a good life and I felt like it was my
fault at the same time right before this had happened my mother had passed away
from from breast cancer and I remember the last day that I was in her room
she had said that she didn’t want to telephone I was calling and calling I
couldn’t understand and I guess people that are dying that know they’re dying
just disconnect from the world and she had told the hospital she didn’t want a
telephone and I was stopping up to the hospital to convince her that she needed
to have a telephone and let’s stop this craziness and I brought the kids with
there was my son Michael’s birthday so my mother was they had her in a bed in
the hallway waiting for her to get into a room and I marched up to her and she
was always real big on giving the kids a lot of stuff for their birthdays and
stuff like that and I said it’s Michael’s birthday and she just looked
at him she said happy birthday Michael he was ten I mean he was like he didn’t
know what was going on I didn’t know anything about grief at the time and I
was furious with her for doing this whole disconnection thing you’re gonna
get well and you’re gonna stop this get into the room my boyfriend came and then
he took the kids home and then he brought the kids back because it seemed
like she wasn’t gonna make it but right before she passed away about an hour
before she passed away the nurse came in and gave her a shot of morphine and I
asked the nurse I was like what are you doing and she said I’m giving her
morphine so she can be comfortable and I was convinced that that morphine killed
her that’s what I was convinced a woman was riddled with cancer and I was
convinced that the morphine killed her and then it was my fault because I
didn’t stop the nurse I mean I don’t know what I was gonna do taggle the
nurse in that in the hospital room shoulda woulda coulda I remember that
when my adopted mother was sick I had started searching for my birth mother
because I was looking for my brother who I remembered and my adoptive mother had
some issues with me searching for my birth family so when she got sick I
stopped cuz any want to upset her when she was sick and then I found out when I
talked to my birth mother the first time that Edward had passed away and if he
had if I had been able to continue my search before my mother got sick I would
have been able to meet him and see him gerrae what a good I was so upset over
these three things that I was unable to function
first there was Edward then there was my adopted mother
and then there was max and I fell apart after Max I absolutely fell apart and
most of you know the story about my first therapist and how tough she was
with me and I wasn’t seeing her at this point but somebody sent me to a grief
therapist they said this guy is terrific and he was a twelve separate I had heard
him speak and he was really funny so I went to see him and I told him all the
things that I just told you and he told me that he always teased his wife about
being a hypochondriac he said they had a house on Cape Cod and they said when
they will go in the water she would go up to her knees the water
go up to her knees and she would not be able to feel her legs and she would
swear that she had multiple sclerosis or something well muscular dystrophy and
she beat she’d be screaming that she was having a stroke she he said that that
was how she responded to everything if it was the water wasn’t just cold and
dumped her legs know she’s dying of a muscular disease now and he said she was
like that with everything when she had a headache it was a brain tumor if she had
a cold it was pneumonia she was gonna die everything she was gonna die and he
said that one night she was complaining about pains in her back and she thought
that she was having a heart attack and he said he did the Fred Sanford of
Sanford & Son imitation I’m coming Elizabeth I’m
coming you know grabbing his chest go and I’m coming Elizabeth I’m coming and
he said he used to tease her all the time that she was Fred Sanford of
Sanford & Son and he said to her how are you having a heart attack when the pains
in your back oh you just want to have he said you just want to have say it’s a
heart attack so I’ll do my Fred Sanford impression and then he would do it but
she wasn’t going to sleep she was really upset and over the years and they had
they had teenage children teenage girls and he said
over the years she had always always been a hypochondriac and he had always
done the Fred Sanford impression but he said it was just about dawn when she was
absolutely positively serious she had to go to the hospital and he said he was
even teasing her on the way to the hospital that this is gonna be a waste
of time gonna go back home etc she was in her
early 40s and she had never been anything but in the best of health so he
thought that this was the silliest thing going to the hospital especially since
the pain was in her back he thought that maybe she wrenched it or or something
she said you probably pulled a muscle he said it’s all the way to the hospital I
said in the hospital and she and he kept asking her she had pains in her chest
pains in her arm she kept saying no no no no no I pains my back I know it’s my
heart you know he said you know that nobody
has a heart attack of pains in their back anyway they get to the hospital and
they put her on machines and she isn’t a full-blown cardiac arrest and she died a
few hours later and when he told me this story my mouth dropped open and he was
sitting there now he’s gonna be my therapist and this is one of the things
I always tell people I share my stories with my clients I had two excellent
therapists who shared their stories with me and this was a story that I would
never ever ever forget never and I was with him for two years he was an
excellent therapist and he shared all kinds of things with me but I would tell
him something that happened in my life and then he would tell me something that
happened and his it was similar and he was always on the money and that’s what
my first therapist did and that’s what I do so people always say like I talk
about myself a lot that my book getting past your breakup has a lot of me in it
getting back out there has a lot of me in it it’s like sorry that’s the kind of
help I received and that’s kind of helped I guess if you want a Freudian
who sits behind a desk doesn’t wear wedding rings doesn’t purchase their
family in their office all that sort of stuff go to a Freudian don’t go to me
because I’m gonna share stuff about my life so he shared this with me and he
said that he beat him self up for months and months even
though the doctors told him that getting her to the hospital any earlier would
not have saved her he hated himself for every time he teased her about her
hypochondria he hated himself for the hard time he gave her that day at the
ocean when she swore that she had some muscular disease because her legs went
cold in the ocean he hated himself for joking with her the night that she died
he relived it all the time he said constantly it was constantly constantly
on his mind and he was telling me this because I was saying the same thing
about my brother and my mother and my dog all these things were in my head all
the time the day that max got stuck in the couch because he only had three legs
and he looks so sad I talked about him bounding joy across the lawn the look on
his face like he could have been in a dog food commercial it was just he was
the picture of a joyous dog you know bounding across that lawn and I thought
about him a bounding across that lawn and Dan what he looked like when he got
stuck in that couch it’s two different dogs he was so sad I said if only I had
told the nurse not to give my mother morphine if only I had not insisted on
medical treatment for my dog if only I had continued to search for my brother
even though my mother my adoptive mother was sick and searching for my biological
family upset her so when he told me this story I was all I’m doing I feel the
same way so I thought we was just gonna commiserate but then he said to me and I
talked in podcast number one about why this called me lady talking that I had a
lot of people who shot straight from the hip and gave me tough love but this man
was not one of them he was one of the softies and I had and I talked about
balance and getting past your breakup getting past your past I talked a lot
about balance and when I had Mentors I tried to balance some of the real
tough ones with some of the real huggy ones and he was one of the hugs but I
thought I just met him and I told him the whole thing about the
hospital and the morphine in my dog in the and the amputation of my brother so
I thought we were just gonna come is array and then he told me that someone
told him that living in the guilts living in the shoulda coulda woulda is a
form of denial it gives you the illusion of control over something you had
absolutely no control over it allows you to ruminate about something that doesn’t
matter even if even if all those things were true even if he could have saved
her getting to the hospital even if I could have talked that nurse into not
giving my mother morphine even if I didn’t have my dog’s leg amputated the
results would be the same they would still all be dead living in the shitter
woulda coulda gives you a sense of control a sense of
I could do something about this even if you did what you think you should have
woulda coulda it doesn’t change the outcome the people and the dog are still
dead and it doesn’t change the circumstances that you need to accept
today say if only I had told that nurse don’t get my mother more thing do you
think cuz you want to listen to me if only I had not insisted on medical
treatment for my dog well this was well past the six months to a year that he
would have had to live if I didn’t give him any medical he still would have been
dead he had bone cancer there was only so much I could do for him he was never
getting to ten which was my wish for him and he was certainly not getting to
thirteen all those if onlys and shoulda woulda coulda did not change the fact
that my mother was dead my dog was dead and my brother was dead and living in
the shuttle Don could it dawn would it dawn if only was keeping me from
accepting the loss grieving the loss and moving on it gave me the illusion
of control where I actually had absolutely none even if what I had done
was horrible and the absolute wrong thing it didn’t change a thing my mother
was dead my dog was dead and my brother was dead and that was the reality I
needed to worry about also with the losses I needed to grieve because I had
sustained those losses and whether or not I was at fault for those losses
didn’t change the fact that they happen they occurred and I lost and I needed to
mend from those losses no matter who was at fault and as convinced as I was that
the if onlys would have saved whomever there was no guarantee of that I could
have insisted that the nurse not giving my mother morphine and not only would my
mother have still died but she would have died in excruciating pain
I could have insisted that my dog not get medical treatment and he may have
died a slow up more lingering death I wouldn’t have known the compassion of
vet who put him to sleep because I met him through the bone cancer program at
Tufts so I don’t know what the alternative would have been to that I
did not have a compassionate vet I had a guy that he went to once a year for
heartworm medicine and and rabies shots and I thought about his regular vet and
I thought wasn’t he he was a compassionate vet but he wasn’t all
touchy-feely like the vet at Tufts was and I could have looked for my brother
earlier and perhaps my parents would have driven him away and then given me
something different to regret when he ultimately died I would have been the
cause of that and I still sometimes can play with he knew about me he knew I was
out there and maybe came a drug addict and maybe he didn’t keep himself in the
best shape well he wasn’t good shape but he was smoking and he was asthmatic and
he was drinking and all these all these sort of perfect storm things happened to
contribute to his death but maybe he was stressed out about me I don’t know I
convinced myself for a long time and he was in my all powerful I’m nipping
mind I could change the past by doing X Y or Z in my fantasy shoulda coulda
woulda the thing I should have done was the correct thing and would have saved
everyone everyone would have been saved everybody would’ve been alive I’m so
powerful but that’s not how it goes this man who was my therapist for two years
after he told me the story about his wife told me first of all we don’t know
that what we shoulda coulda woulda would have changed a damn thing we like to
think that we could have changed this outcome because we don’t like the
outcome and we don’t like being so powerless over the app we want to think
we could change something but the reality is what you have to accept the
person is gone whether they’re gone through death or they’re gone because
they walked out the door or they’re gone because you sent them out the door the
reality is that the relationship is no more and thinking about what you could
have done to change it doesn’t change it now we are thinking if only I had done
this it would be different because we want to think that we had some control
over a situation we had no control over and that lack of control made us feel
powerless and that powerlessness drove us to the shitter woulda couldas because
we don’t want to accept the powerlessness but even if we could
change it even if we could have changed it we can’t change it now thinking back
on what we could have done can serve as a lesson for the future but that’s it
that’s the only thing you could do if you have regrets if you have guilt about
something the only thing and I teach this all the time the only thing that
guilt is good for is to instruct future behavior forget about the past you
cannot change the past the only thing you can do about the past is accept and
if you want whatever it is you’re feeling guilty about whatever it is you
regret if you want that to have some meaning and not just be a waste of your
energy and a waste of your consciousness you have to take the lesson from not
acting in the past and apply it to see where you can act in
the future other than a lesson for the future living in the if onlys does not
serve us at all not at all let it go it’s only good to use as a
lesson for the future if you could when my husband Michael was sick and dying
and I knew he was dying I was giving him morphine because by that time I learned
he’s gonna die anyway and I don’t want him to die in pain and I learned that
lesson from thinking back about my mother of course the nurse should have
given her that morphine absolutely when Michael was dying I gave him the
morphine I was not gonna withhold the morphine because it’s gonna kill him the
morphine didn’t kill him the cancer killed him and the cancer killed my
mother not the morphine not the nurse you have to let go of this shit’ll
woulda coulda mindset you have no idea if you could have saved that which was
not safe you cannot rewrite the past so stop living there and in any event it
wasn’t saved that’s the reality it’s gone and that’s what you need to know
and that’s what you need to accept even if you could have changed things then
you can’t change them now and now is what matters it’s the only thing that
matters living and the could have done get you nowhere and gave you nothing
live where you can change things the present and the future take what you
need from the lesson of the past and then face full stop shooting on yourself
and change the things you can change the day and the only thing you can change is
you and nothing you that you used to be but the you that you are now if you have
regret and guilt about the past it’s time to face forward it’s time to heal
it’s time to move on there’s a serenity prayer that goes god grant me the
serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things
I can and the wisdom to know the difference
find the wisdom to know the difference of what you can and cannot change you
cannot change the past accept what you can’t and change what you can the only
thing you can you let go the guilt let go the regret
face forward and live your life you can do this I hope that today’s podcast gave
you something to think about because guilt and regret are really horrible
things to live with especially when there’s absolutely nothing you can do
about what happened if you had something go on in the past that you truly feel
you could have changed except that you didn’t change it then and accept that
you’re just gonna learn from it now and you’re gonna move on and that’s part of
being good to you so be good to you and know that you can do it leave the
past in the past face forward and work on you you can’t do this this is Susan
Elliott signing off have a great guilt-free day talk to you soon you

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