Tuesday, May 1

Top Five Regrets of the Dying




Big subject, big challenge but as we write here of embracing life and optimal health perhaps this is also a timely reminder for us that “in the midst of life we are in death.”  And especially today as we mark the passing of winter..

So below are listed the top five regrets of the dying.

(And there was no mention of sex or parachuting, fast cars or loose women)!

How do we know?  We read it in a book (of the same title) written by an Australian palliative care nurse called Bronnie Ware who cared for people in the last 12 weeks of their lives and recorded their dying “epiphanies”.  And what Ware sees is the phenomenal clarity of vision people gain at the end of their lives.  And what Ware notes is that “when questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”  And we can learn deeply from this:

Here are the top five regrets as witnessed by Bronnie 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 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 have 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 missed their friends when they are dying.”

5.  I wish 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 lives again.”

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

What would your biggest regret be if this was to be the last day of your life?

1 comment:

Elizabeth Bennett RN MSN PhD said...

Greetings! Beltane is a wonderful time to consider life, renewal, and transitions. As a nurse, I find that even the birth of a wee babe cannot bring one as close to life than death. As your story has made clear, it is only by living and standing at death's door that we realize the fullness and hope of life. Well done, thank you.