“Don’t I love her? When I am near her I am nearer things which are near her.”
Regret isn’t a simple emotion. It’s more an amalgam of many different feelings bundled into one thing that we name “regret”. It’s sadness, it’s anger, it’s fear of our past failings manifesting themselves in the present. It’s self-loathing. Really, it’s the inverse of nostalgia. Instead of looking fondly at the past for comfort, one looks back in disgust because of actions already taken. Whether or not things are your fault is inconsequential—you now have to live with the consequences of what led you here.
I’ve often said that I’ve never regretted anything in my life. Even the bad times I look back upon as a season for learning and growth. But that’s not necessarily true. For two years, regret ate at me like a cancer while depression enveloped my wife.
In 2016, my mother-in-law began exhibiting symptoms of what we would later find out in December to be the first signs of ALS. My wife was devastated. Not only did she have to deal with the slow loss of her mother to an awful disease, she had to do this 2,500 miles away from home since Lynn still lived in Kentucky and we had moved to Washington state for my new job.
After Lynn’s death, we moved her father up here to be with us. But David passed away over a year after that, due to complications from dementia. My wife again grieved and regret still lingered. I was ashamed that I couldn’t do more—that we continued the downward spiral into grief and regret.
In Silent Hill 2, we begin with the appearance of James Sutherland. Years earlier, he had lost his wife, Mary, to illness—only to receive a letter asking him to return to Silent Hill and meet her “in our special place.” Unsure of her meaning, James heads to the center of town, Rosewater Park, where he meets Maria.James’ guilt over his feelings towards Mary and her illness put my own into perspective.
Maria is the yang to Mary’s yin. She is everything that James’ animal instincts wanted from his bedridden wife and the nurses who attended her: forward, flirtatious, and in touch with her sexuality. She decides to help him find Mary, following him into the nearby hospital. There, Pyramid Head stalks and kills Maria-the first time of many. Maria soon reappears healthy and whole with no memory of her death, only to be killed again and again. Eventually arriving at his and Mary’s “special place”, the Lake View Hotel, James plays a video tape that reveals he killed his wife in the final days of her illness.
James’ guilt over his feelings towards Mary and her illness put my own into perspective. I was often frustrated. And I wasn’t always sure where to aim this frustration. Sometimes I was upset at not being able to fix everything that was upsetting my wife. I had to help her endure it even though that too was causing me pain. It was inconvenient. I was tired. Right before the final boss, James recalls a moment where he brought flowers home to Mary, who lashed out at him for the gesture. James leaves Mary in tears as she begs for him to come back and tell her everything is going to be OK. Did I abandon my wife during times when she needed me the most? Did leaving her to sleep in order to go read, or write, or play a game count as dereliction of my duty as a husband?
Silent Hill 2 helped me to face my feelings of regret head on by showing me that there are circumstances that are beyond my control. Sometimes the only thing we can do is learn to forgive ourselves. As James had to go through his own personal hell to seek redemption, I also spent a long, long time contemplating and being tormented by events I could not see coming. There is an escape. But without forgiveness, from and for ourselves and others, we live in our own little Silent Hills.