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Okay, I get what ‘regret’ is, but what’s ‘gret’ and how did it ‘re’?

I have been invited to host a panel on How to Live Child-free Without Regrets at the upcoming Fertility Planit 2014 in Los Angeles( Happily sharing the stage with my good buddy Lisa Manterfield and, the soon to meet, Lynn Newman).  I am thrilled to be invited back for a second year to be part of Fertility Planit. And I am over the moon to be considered an expert on this topic as it acknowledges that I am living child-free without regret and that is a HUGE for me to have accomplished even in the non-expert category. As I started to think about the upcoming event for some reason the word ‘regret’ got stuck in my head, looping over and over and refusing to be ignored.   You see, on occasion I get struck by a word and I get the feeling I really don’t fully understand it. Yes,of course, I know, what ‘regret’ means, or at least I thought I did until I started meditating on it.  When I think of regret I think of the noun of regret, the “pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone.” But that definition didn’t resonate with anything I felt and so I though on.

I remember studying prefixes and suffixes decades ago in high school back when “Girls just wanted to have fun” and Madonna was “Like a Virgin”. ‘Re’ means to do again  or again and again or to go back to.  But ‘gret’ what the heck is that?  I don’t remember the last time I gretted about anything. Well, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary the “gret” of regret comes from the work “greter, possibly from Frankish or some other Germanic source (cf. Old English grætan “to weep;” Old Norse grata “to weep, groan”)”. Okay, I do some grætan, grata, groaning and weeping, on occasion, when I look back.  That I am okay with.  That kind of looking back I can see has value, as long as your ‘re’ isn’t got you so stuck looking back that you can’t look at any other direction. This kind of regret is defined as “to look back with distress or sorrowful longing; to grieve for on remembering”. This kind of regret I am good with in, and occasionally partake in( as demonstrated by my previous post).

A couple of songs popped in my head as I ruminated on regret. The first song I thought of was Frank Sinatra’s somewhat melancholy My Way. In that classic song Ol’ Blue-Eyes says  on the subject: “Regrets, I’ve had a few.But then again, too few to mention” Yeah, okay, I guess I fit in this camp. I feel lots of things when I look to the past: occssionally sad, disappointed, compassionate, an attempt to understand or make meaning from it…but  not the kind of regret in which you beat yourself up for things done and things not done, no, not really. As much of my life didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to I don’t really relate to that kind of regret. I don’t look at the past and think a lot about “if only I had done x, y, or z ” and then feel crappy that I didn’t do those things. Sure, like any self-reflective human being with a conscience,  I can see that lots of things would have, should have and could have done better if I had made better choices, but I suppose that there is something self-protective in me that tells me I can’t do anything about the past except learn from it and to use that information to make better decisions in my now so to be kind to myself when looking at the past. God only knows where I developed that bit of loving kindness for myself( I am guessing it came from some therapist I saw).

As for regrets about not having a kiddo of my own, the song I would sing on this subject would be Edith Piaf’s classic,  Non, je ne regrette rien. No! Absolutely nothing… No! I regret nothing. I have zero regret about all the money( enough to buy me a shiny new Bentley) we spent on trying to conceive and all the time and all the tears and all the pain. I regret none of it.  What, I think, I would have regretted was not trying as hard as I did. If I had given it a half-harded stab at it I feel sure I would wonder what could have happened if I really gave it my all. And because I tried everything that I was comfortable trying I have zero regrets about that. Knowing that I did all that I could do, all that I could manage, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially—it helps, it is a comfort. While yes, I have the “look back with distress or sorrowful longing; to grieve for on remembering” kind of regret, I am grateful to not have the “pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone” kind.

Now when I look back at some of my romantic choices or my assortment of silly and bone-headed choices from 18-26 I do a lot of “gretting” and groaning, but no one is asking me to be a panel on how not to regret the guys you dated in your early twenties.

Please come see us at Fertility Planit at UCLA on April 4th and 5th and learn more about how to live child-free without regret. Trust me, it can be done.





6 Responses to “Okay, I get what ‘regret’ is, but what’s ‘gret’ and how did it ‘re’?”

  • Je recherchais des blogs en français car ma langue me manque et je n’ai personne ici avec qui parler, et j’ai trouvé le votre, mais vous parlez en anglais… Une amie (américaine) m’a suggérée d’écrire des commentaires sur les blogs qui ont un nom français, au cas ou on le parlerait ou au cas ils seraient bilingues, comme au Canada. J’ai lu votre poste – je vois que vous parlez d’Edith Piaf – et bien quand je travaillais dans une édition de musique à Paris, je lui ai parlé, et je l’ai vu plusieurs fois à l’Olympia – une chanteuse qui avait un grand talent.
    D’autre part vous savez les origines de la chanson “My Way” que chantait Frank Sinatra? Elle a été composé par le français Claude Francois, et s’appelait “comme d’habitude.” Paul Anka la traduit en anglais “My Way.” D’ailleurs pendant des années les droits d’auteurs n’ont pas été payés à Claude Francois et après un procès, Frank Sinatra a accepté de dire que la chanson était française, et aussi après avoir payé une amende!

  • Thanks for an inspiring post Tracey, & it’s really inspiring to read that you have no regrets.
    I feel like that too, and like you in part that comes fro knowing that we did eveythng we could and also knew when to stop.
    I wish I could attend but it’s a long way from London so I look forward to watching the video.
    Lesley x

  • I love it when you challenge me to dig deep into myself. A good post to reflect on regrets in general (in my case).

    I wish I could come. Will be thinking of you. Have a great one, make history all over again!


  • Great post. There is something incredibly healing and healed at the point where we stop regretting and start learning. I was stuck for YEARS in grumbling over path not taken, path taken, and as you mention, those feelings make a guilty, shameful mess. Totally unhelpful.

    I think you nailed it too that loving kindness for the self is the key (which is of course harder to find at times than kindness for others). I think you are going to help a lot of people at Fertility Planit. Go get ‘em!

  • Oh, that’s WONDERFUL news that you’re going to be in the panel again. I hope the video will be up later on because I can’t come personally.

    Love your take on regrets. :-)

  • Congratulations on the speaking invitation! I’m nowhere near LA but I wish you all the best. Let us know if you ever have the opportunity to speak on the East Coast.

    This “regret” issue is something I’m currently working on with my therapist. I, too, don’t regret my past decisions because I did the best I could under the circumstances. If you look in the dictionary under “late bloomer” you’d probably find my picture! Learning to accept this part of myself and to be not so hard on myself, and others, is part my journey now.

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About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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