Top Five Regrets of the Dying

If you had no time left, what would you regret not doing?

I've just finished one of the most powerful books I've read this year. It's by a wonderful woman named Bronnie Ware, and it focuses in on the actual voiced regrets of people she encountered when they were dying. Top Five Regrets of the Dying - Powerful stuff.

Here's a small excerpt:

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.

* Book author Bronnie Ware is a writer and songwriter from Australia. For more
information about her book and her other work, please visit

* Blog author Rich Gee is a certified business and career coach, based locally in Connecticut. His web site is Rich Gee Group, and you can submit your business and career questions to Rich at patch@richgee.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Craig Zac December 14, 2011 at 01:02 AM
wow .... yes very powerful, i agree, sorta makes you think dont it? what can i do for me that i havent done yet? what di I want from life and why am I not going after it? why do I worry so much about things I cannot control? maybe I should spend that time doing something i ENJOY OR REALLY WANT TO TRY? thanks for posting this Rich!
Ed Rowland December 15, 2011 at 12:50 AM
As always Rich,very moving.Reminds me of something my Dad said to me many months before he passed away."I wish I had been around you kids more".I loved my father very much and I had and still have so much respect for my Dad.He more than made up for working so much as we got older.Luckily though when he was busy with his job,I had 3 fantastic uncles that always filled in.My late Uncle,John Fritz Sr.was my Scoutmaster with Troop1 Oxford.And my Uncles Fred Rowland and Phil Rowland are such great guys.Always around all 3 of them growing up.I was and still am very lucky to have the family that I have.Great upbringing.Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.
Jennifer December 19, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Wonderful post, especially this time of year when people are resolving to make positive changes in their lives.
kathy johnson January 05, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Ed great post .It's easy to see why you turned out to be a good and caring person who loves his town and his fellow man. You have a way of bringing us closer together.


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