Top Five Deathbed Regrets

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Recently I happened to read a blog post from a nurse who reported the top five regrets people have on their deathbed. I found it very moving, with lessons that can help all of us become happier right now.

The author, Bonnie Ware, worked for many years in palliative care with patients who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared, she said, as she spent the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. "People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality," Bonnie says.

Bonnie learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. "Some changes were phenomenal," she writes. "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 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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

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, Bonnie says. "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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made."

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that Bonnie 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."

I agree with what Bonnie says next: "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."

Thank you, Bonnie Ware, for sharing your experiences!

I read Bonnie's message around the same time I heard Dr. Alex Loyd suggest and exercise on one of the Cutting Edge talks that gets at a similar thing. Imagine you were just told that you'd be dead in 3 months, but in those 3 months you would keep your health. What would you do differently starting now? (You can hear replays by signing up here for free.)

Living so that you won't have these five regrets, or any others, could be a good place to start. And if you need any help healing heart issues so you won't have to live by other people's expectations, so you can repair relationships, express your feelings or just feel happier and more at peace, get in touch with me for some coaching.

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Marianne Verhagen

I just wanted to thank you for sharing this article with all of us.

Jannis Hannah

Hello,  I wish I had a more positive attitude at different times in my life.
I Appreciate all of you working so hard to help all of us!!
Thank you. 😉

Paul Kirk

Yes absolutely, we will not regret what we havew done 5 yeas fom now, but we will regret what we ddn't do.
 
PK

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