For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I'd 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 unfulfilled. 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.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work 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.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
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.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
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.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
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.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
This article was reprinted with permission from Bronnie Ware, a writer and songwriter from Australia who spent several years caring for dying people in their homes. She has recently released a full-length book titled 'The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing'. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for. For more information, please visit Bronnie's official website at www.bronnieware.com or her blog at www.inspirationandchai.com.
Happiness, what the hell was that! I regret having to be subjected to such a sad life for 68yrs. now and probably another 15 to 25 more years as more punishment on this hellhole! ( Perfectly healthy since having my tonsils out in 1957 and lousy life from being one-eyed blinded in 1951! Yes I also know I'm angry and bitter! ) I've lived the life I wanted, with the restrictions and sadness imposed by the circumstances and it's still been a load of crap! ( Always been "in this world, not of it! ) "It's a Wonderful Life"? Hell it is!!!
I appreciate your thoughts. Thoughts like these are not just for grown ups. They are thoughts that were felt even as a child, not ever measuring up, or at the least.."different than". As a Chaplain and one who brings comfort to ohers, and some would say brings a lot of of peace and comfort to others, a.k.a. successful in one's job, I have had to come to the understanding that God or the Divine made me who I am and have given me the abilities, likes, joys and talents that I have. I need to often realize that I AM doing what fulfills ME, not someone else.
This stings. Quite a lot. I'm not doing the best at the moment even with having a pretty comfortable life. I'm working in a field that I've chosen, I'm married with two kids and have a roof over my head. I have no reason to complain. So why am I so stressed out? Because even though I am ok with not being a "Champion of the Universe" (read: rich and successful) and I'm "only" an academic librarian with a Master's degree, in the eyes of many I am a failure.
And it isn't fair. And life isn't fair.
Even choosing to do something that I love and staying out of trouble and going "above and beyond" isn't good enough sometimes. You have to do the right thing in the eyes of society - usually something that makes you a bunch of money - especially if you are a man. No excuses. Failure is not an option. Depression and stress are signs of weakness.
So here I am expressing my feelings to strangers that I'm pretty ticked off that things haven't changed in my lifetime. I am one of those guys living a life of "quiet desperation" because I am the "least successful" one in my family and among my friends, peers and neighbors. I'm constantly reminded of it through the vacations that people take and the restaurants they visit and the gifts they receive. I really shouldn't care and don't until other people constantly bring it up and because I haven't taken my kids to swim with the dolphins, I'm a lesser parent.
On my deathbed, I'm hoping to tell those gathered around that I was pretty happy and satisfied with my life choices. But I'm not there yet.[Hide Full Comment]
The first 30 years of my life were spent trying to get my parents to show me any kind of love or affection I could get. But as the oldest of 5 it was impossible so I spent my youth trying to please others and in the end I lost something important...me.
I just re-read this article and was deeply touched by it. Thank you for featuring this piece. It's such an important reminder, one that often gets lost in the little tasks that make up each day. :)
Just what Anita Moorjani talks about ....1 Love your Self. 2 Be true to yourself, 3 KnowLife is a Gift
4. Choose Joy.
This article has touched me deeply.
We keep on postponing our wishes in the hope that there is still time left. Should seriously start fulfilling some of them before I am into my final round of regrets.
I'd spent a lot more time in the pouring rain without an umbrella coverin my head.
And I'd stood up to that bully when he pushed and called me names, but i was too afraid.
And I'd of gone off to see elvis that night he came to town... mama said i couldn't.
And I'd a went skinny dipping with jenny carson that night she dared me to... but i didn't.
Oh I.... I'd done a lot of things different.
I wish I'd a spent more time with my dad when he was alive... now I don't have the chance.
Ladies and Gentlemen... the great Kenny Chesney signing " A lot of things different".
Life is a journey not a destination! Doesn't matter what and/or how you travel through it, as long as you do it peacefully. It is not healthy taking everything so serious. Life is too short... We need to thank God for the time we have had with those we love, and quit regretting things we could have or should have done. Enjoy what is in front of you, live for today as though it is your last day on earth. We never know what will happen or where we will be tomorrow. If I had a chance to live another life, I don't believe I would change much, I have learned from both good and bad, mistakes and successes, it is all part of the journey, afterall, we do write our own script, God just helps guide us through it if you allow him to. Peace
Definitely agree with what you stated. Your explanation was certainly the easiest to understand about "Top Five Regrets of the Dying".
What articles like this miss is that sometimes we have no choice. In today's job market, we cannot just say don't work so hard. If we don't someone else will. We can live a simple life, but when a loved one has a medical issue and the bills are high, we have to keep working. Sometimes there are no other choices. We just have to suck it up as they say and plug on.
Only when desires cease, will suffering cease, such is the way with man.
Doesnt matter if the desire is materialistic or altruistic, as long as it exists suffering will continue.
i also feel like that, some times we had capacity to handle the things, situations, or relations more efficiently, but we unable to did so and some day when we r alone and try to find out reason of failure we realize one of these regrets or combine effect of these 5
This should be a remember to everyone that you only live once and so you should live it to the max. Don't waste your time trying to impress people through out your life because it will only hurt you in the end. That's why it was #1. You can live life passively or you can take on a journey that life provides. Chase after your dreams and expand your comfort zone. You would be surprised of how much potential you have as a human being. Offer kindness and compassion as much as you receive them.
Hiding our feelings is a crime to ourselves......its lyk an ordeal......
n moreovr as a ring makes an impint on our finger evn after removing it......in d same way dese un expressed feelings makes us immortal smewhere..................
I don't think it can hurt very much if you tell someone that you don't like something.
It depends how you use your discretion. and that won't be a big problem when dying
I have been wondering
I've been controlling and hiding my feelings in order not to hurt and offend others, but I don't think that I would regret it if I' ll die.
I like the 4 others above (regret of dying)
I figured I'd have 4 out 5 but all five have been forefront to me lifelong.I've been very lucky.
an understanding is missing in all of the recaptures, including authors comments.
all the people that had regrets would live exactly the same life as they did if they had a second chance for simple reason- they didn’t understand that what happened to them was the LIFE. If they could, they would live differently.
What this article shown is that people died without finding happiness even at the last moments of their lives. Happiness doesn’t have time measure. You always have time before you die! It could be a millisecond before you die. But if you spending time in regrets, then your life is exactly what you are, full of regrets.
DON’T choose consciously, DON’T choose wisely, DON’T choose honestly. DON’T choose happiness. DON’T have regrets. If you are choosing you are always in doubt, and in regrets…..
Stop choosing; accept what is coming to you! Be happy!
That is fact. When you in bed 6th day and you can't even go a toilet is when you will loose hope. without hope will mean no life. I may be seen that and first thing came to my head was why I didn't enjoy life. With Allah's greatness I got the time and I can enjoy at maximum by doing whatever I like. I can be in the mosque or I can be in my room abusing alcohol or i can visit a relative or I can please anyone but not displease them. When people are young, they don't have experience but when they see all sides with all effects they just cool down for knowing one time they will good bye.
It is good to add that into the accounts and enjoy life at its highest. turn away all those don't please or just don't give time. imagine if someone is living in fear or jail and we are free from all. we also need to not forget that enjoying too much is destructive. So it is better to balance and shape it like you like it to be.
peope died a long time ago, are still in the graves begging God to finish this world and start a new one so that thy would form part of the next population. they are unlucky because resurrections are not near.
We too are not lucky because life is short....so we have to dedicate to good.
"We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win."
This is huge! When we understand this, we can have a bit of freedom.
1 reply: Jackie | Post Your Reply
"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. " that is how we share the gift we were meant to bring into the world. thank you for this reality check. Please everyone take the risks needed to realign the culture with human potential & lifes fuller possibilities. We are in a western cultural ditch but we need not stay there!!
1 reply: Beth | Post Your Reply
On Jan 14, 2018 Sethi wrote:
Thank you . We are the creators of our lives and we have the choice what kind of life we want to live . That is the truth .
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