Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Living a life that reflects your personal values can act as a buffer against psychological and physical stress; but often in life we become detached from our values, we forget the things that are really important to us, the things that give our life meaning.

Nothing focuses your mind on the things that are most important, than knowing your time is running out. Bronnie Ware, a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives, recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, her writing has now been put into a book the Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Here are the top five regrets of the dying as witnessed by Ware and taken from an article written by Susie Steiner for The Guardian.

1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it”.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Each one of these regrets resonates with me. it is as if a precious pearl of wisdom has been handed down to us, words so wise we would be fools to ignore them.

Imagine yourself facing your final days; what regrets might you have and what can you be doing now to change those regrets before it is too late?

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