Several years ago, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware wrote a memoir entitled “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.” She collected first-hand quotes from those who were at the end of their lives, tallied them up and concluded the five most common regrets they shared.
By examining these regrets up close, we can get an idea of what we too can expect to feel (at least on a conscientious level) when one day at death’s door ourselves. Let’s take a look together, and see what we can learn while we still have the time.
Regret #1- “I wish I’d lived my life true to me, and not to the expectations of others.”
Everyone feels pressure from others, whether from parents, friends, or society in general. We all feel pressure to look a certain way, behave a certain way, and even feel a certain way. If we don’t, we’re considered “strange” or “different.” Those who are dying want us to say loud and proud, “So what?” This is your life and not anyone else’s. Do what brings you joy. Don’t waste time comparing your life to anyone else’s. Nothing is a competition or a race!
Regret #2- “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
The rat race gets most of down on a daily basis. Society says we must go to college and then to work, pay off our loans and contribute to our 401K for decades, only to retire with just enough time to live life how we actually want to. But the dying encourage us to take on a different perspective. It was never about the company or the money or the recognition, they say. All of that fades away. It was always about the relationships. Nurture them.
Regret #3- “I wish I had shared my thoughts and feelings more openly.”
It’s so easy to hold in our feelings. It’s not so easy to hold our tongue when we need to get a point across, but for some reason we do it all the time. The dying say, Stop! To think that one day we will be out of time like them, and will have lost our chance to tell our loved ones just how much they mean to us - or what was really on our mind the whole time. Think about that, and don’t let another opportunity to do so go to waste.
Regret #4- “I wish I had stayed better connected to my loved ones.”
This regret comes in at #4 on Ware’s list, but it may be the saddest of them all. Why do we keep our precious friends and family, who are so very important to us, in the back of our minds? After all, it should be so easy to keep in touch with loved ones, especially in this day and age of social media. But we’re just too busy and it’s too easy to think, “I’ll call them tomorrow.” Or, “I’ll reply to that text message once I’m done doing this…” only to forget about it entirely. No…call your loved one today. Reply to that text message sooner rather than later. Because the day is coming when one of you won’t be on the other end of the line.
Regret #5- “I wish I had been happier.”
Happiness is a choice - this is something that the dying wish they had realized sooner. Attitude really is everything, and true joy can be found in even the most unhappy of circumstances. Don’t take a single moment of life for granted. Live in the moment and really learn to be grateful for every breath you take, every bite of food you taste and every song you feel in your heart. Most of all, be thankful for what you have in life. You never know what the next day will bring…when it will all end…and when you’ll be out of time.
Learn more about Bronnie Ware and her memoir at her website: bronnieware.com/