15 Short Poems About Regret, Mistakes & Moving Forward

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You may feel a wide variety of emotions if you’ve recently lost someone close to you. You may feel anger that the person was taken too soon. You may feel overwhelming sadness at having to continue with life without the person who meant so much to you.

But one of the most common emotions that people experience when they mourn the death of someone they loved is regret.

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You may regret the things that were left undone and unsaid, regret lashing out in anger and frustration when you should have been more understanding and patient. You may also mourn the wasted opportunities that we had to grow closer to the person who is now gone.

Poets and songwriters try to understand the complex emotions one experiences after a death. You may also feel comfort in reading funeral poems that are often shared at end-of-life services. 

Tip: Our post-loss checklist can help you work through the challenges of losing a loved one, from choosing funeral planning to grief support. 

Short Poems About Regret and Love

Love doesn’t always end in death — sometimes it ends in heartbreak. Regardless, if your relationship is over, you may have feelings of regret about things that were said or done.

Here are some poems about love and the regret that often follows the end of a relationship.

1. "Tears, Idle Tears” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This piece speaks to those who have regrets after the death of a lover. One of the most poignant lines says, 

“Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; 
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!”

2. “Remorse — is memory — awake —” by Emily Dickinson

You might imagine that Emily Dickson may have had a lot of regrets. She lived as a recluse and is said to have had romantic feelings for individuals that were unexpressed and thus, unreturned. In this poem, she describes her remorse as being “adequate of hell.” 

3. “Illuminations: I” by Tony Harrison

Perhaps you feel regret for not appreciating the time you had with your parents. In “Illuminations: I,” modern poet Tony Harrison expresses this sorrow that is common among people who have lost their moms and dads.

4. “There’s a Regret” by William Ernest Henley

In the second stanza of the poem, William Ernest Henley writes about the regret he feels — not for the big things, but the little things. He writes:

“For deeds undone
Rankle and snarl and hunger for their due,
Till there seems naught so despicable as you
In all the grin o' the sun.”

5. "In Memoriam A. H. H.” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tennyson once again makes our list with this poem that he wrote upon the death of a friend. This short selection speaks about the regret one feels “for buried time.” 

Tennyson admits later in the poem that the feeling that he is experiencing may not be regret, but instead happiness, as he reflects upon his time with his friend.

ยป MORE: Instead of ashes, create a beautiful stone. Parting Stone helps you keep your loved ones close.

 

Short Poems About Dealing with Regret

Those who are able to express deep emotions within the confines of a few words are truly gifted. Here are some short poems that speak about feelings you may be experiencing right now.

6. “Regret” by Robert William Service

Robert William Service writes about the simple regrets of life, which often occurs when you lose someone close to you. You appreciate all the kindnesses that you receive during your difficult time, and it makes you regret not being a better friend to others during their times of grief.

7. “Regret” by Charlotte Bronte

In this incredibly bittersweet poem, Charlotte Bronte speaks about how she wishes she could return to the home of her youth. She admits that she spent much of her time at home wishing she was someplace else. Perhaps you have the same regret that Bronte has. After all, there’s no place like home.

8. “The Remorse of the Dead” by Charles Baudelaire

In this rather graphic poem, Charles Baudelaire describes remorse as the “worm that shall gnaw thy cheek.” Hopefully, this is more of a figurative view of the afterlife rather than a literal one.

9. “A Remorseful Stowaway” by Raymond A. Foss

We had to include a few poems on the list lighter in nature. This poem by Raymond A. Foss discusses the regret a spider must feel as it clings to the outside of a car as it zooms down the highway.

Foss is also speaking on a deeper level about how many of us feel regret about our choices in life — those that caused us to hang on for dear life.

10. "Birthday Ruminations” by Edgell Rickword

Edgell Rickword describes the regret he experiences as he faces the end of his life. He describes the examination of his life as looking through the wreckage of a ship lost at sea, and he isn’t necessarily pleased with what he discovers. This poem is relatively short but isn’t easy to analyze.

Short Poems About Living with No Regrets

If only we could all climb into our beds each night with no regrets on how we spent our day. Living without regrets may help you experience a happier and more peaceful life. 

Here are some short poems about living life without regrets. After all, that should be everyone’s goal in life, shouldn’t it?

11. "Out of Love” by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is one of America’s favorite poets. In this selection, he writes that since everything he did was “out of love,” he has no regrets.

12. “In Praise of Regret” by Charlie Smith

Poet Charlie Smith says that perhaps we should give regret “a place at the table” and try to learn from it. This philosophy may be more realistic than trying to live a perfect life in the first place. 

13. “The Road and the End” by Carl Sandburg

Regret is described as the “gravel underfoot” in this poem by Carl Sandburg. Sandburg describes his life as a journey where 

“The broken boulders by the road
Shall not commemorate my ruin.”

14. “Living Tree” by Robert Morgan

When thinking about your final wishes, do you want to be buried beneath a tree in a cemetery? These trees that are placed in a ground that is “dignified by loss” do not have any regrets. They just reach up to the glorious sun without concern about the mistakes of the past. 

15. “People Die All the Time” by Haruki Murakami

Even though Haruki Murakami is not considered a poet, he speaks about the importance of living life without regrets. His quote about death: “People die all the time. Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regrets.”

Reflect On Your Life and Its Story

Have you thought about your own eulogy? Perhaps you have looked through eulogy examples and determined that you would like yours to include a favorite poem about regret. 

Maybe you have more opinions about your end-of-life services. Perhaps you wish to be cremated and have your ashes scattered at sea while your cousin reads one of the poems on this list. Maybe you have a list of the songs you want to have played at your funeral. You may even have an opinion about the wine served at your funeral luncheon.

 If you want to make sure that your final wishes are fulfilled, make sure you share your plans with someone close to you. If you don’t share your desires, your family members may experience some regrets themselves.


 Sources

  1. Famous Poets and Poems. famouspoetsandpoems.com/search/1/poems/remorse
  2. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/
  3. The Poetry Archive. poetryarchive.org/

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