Top 5 regrets of the dying

Photo: Montgomery Martin/Alamy

If today were the last day of your life, what would be your biggest regret?
Susie Steiner reports for the UK’s Guardian, Feb. 1, 2012, that a palliative nurse who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the top five most common regrets we have at the end of our lives.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

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 realize 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 honored 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 realize, 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 realize 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 realize 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.”
I need to work on No. 5. What do you need to change?

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8 years ago

It is amazing no one regrets the time spent watching TV!!!. Especially men.!! They are also into sports and etc. Entertainment. They should admit also to taking romance out of the equasion in marriages .If you treat most wives like a Queen she will treat you like a King. All it takes is a simple act of love.. Life keeps men too busy that is for sure. And life is not like a Viagra commercial makes it out to be. That is a laugh. Talking to one another helps too. Hardly seems right the men thinking of them selves at… Read more »

8 years ago

I need to work on #4, sigh…

8 years ago

Working too much. I did that way too much in my 30’s.
Now just want to enjoy life!

8 years ago

I worry waaaay too much. ” Worry is interest paid on a debt that may never come due”. Need to work on that one!

8 years ago

I need to work on number 1, and I hope I express my feelings to my family. That’s one of those things we think we do, but we aren’t always successful. Now you’ve given me something to think about!