5 Regrets of the Dying

5 regrets of the dying............ sounds a bit morbid to talk about dying but this article is actually rather inspiring.    Make sure by the time it's your turn to go you have no regrets instead  leave feeling you have lived a full and enriched life.

I came across Bronnie Ware's blog  a couple of years ago where she wrote about the 5 regrets of the dying and included snippets in one of my newsletters.  As I've been revamping the website I came across it again  and I find it most inspiring so in the hope that others will too I'm creating it on a page of its own.  Enjoy!  


Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care. for many years where she nursed patients who had gone home to die. I admire the people like Bronnie that have such a special gift that they can do this as it must be incredibly difficult.  Bronnie says however that she shared Some incredibly special times with people that were in the last weeks of their lives.

It's difficult to imagine how we would cope if we were suddenly faced with our own mortality and I guess everyone reacts in a different way. But Bronnie says she soon learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal.

It seems that patients expressed a common range of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. However it's re-assuring that she says every single patient eventually found their peace before they departed.

When Bronnie questioned her paitients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,  there were five common  themes that surfaced again and again.

 5 Regrets of the dying

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 of the 5 regrets of the dying.    We all have dreams when we set out but how many of us actually achieve all of our dreams. We get caught up in everyday life and quite often we take a different path to the one we intended.  Bronnie tells how many of those she talked to hadn't even honoured half of their dreams.  If we haven't fulfilled our dreams it is has been through the choices we've made or didn't make.

What is evident is that while we are healthy we have the freedom to make those choices but once our health fails it can quite often prove to be too late.

So if you still have dreams that you haven't achieved I would encourage you to make them happen while you can.

2.   I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

The second of the 5 regrets of the dying  came from every male patient that Bronnie nursed. As most  of the patients were from an older generation, from a time that it wasn't common place for women to work but rather they stayed at home taking care of the home and the children.

I have many friends who now they're retired have spoken of their regret that they missed out on their family life having to work long hours and be away from home several nights a week. I feel sure our children will feel this as they get older as both men and women  seem to have to work just to maintain a reasonable standard of living while relying on grandparents or after school clubs etc. to take care of their children. 
 
Why do we feel that we have to give so much time to our work to pay for the things we think we need?  Perhaps we should opt for a simpler lifestyle that gives us the freedom to spend more time with our loved ones.

3.   I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

The third of the 5 regrets of the dying is not that surprising.  How many of us suppress our feelings in order to keep the peace with others?  Even staying in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the children or living a life to please someone else.    It's interesting that divorce rates among retirees are rising.  It seems that when baby boomers have retired and are  faced with the prospect of spending more time with each other many of them are deciding enough is enough and heading to the divorce courts.

Supressing our feelings can cause bitterness and resentment which in turn can make us ill.   So be brave and be honest about your feelings it will either make or break relationships but it sets you free to be who you want to be.

4.   I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Bronnie says that another sad regret from the 5 regrets of the dying is how  often patients would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down.  How sad is that?

I personally have found that friendships have changed over the years and there are many friends and even family  that have drifted by the wayside because of busy lifestyles, changes in location or interests.  Often it's not intentional it just happens as life gets in the way.

I've noticed now as I unfortunately attend more funerals there are friends that I encounter at these events that I haven't seen for years and were once quite close to.

You only have to watch the television programme 'Long Lost Family'  where people are trying to trace family members that they've lost touch with and are clearly desperate to be reunited.

It seems that for most  people as they approach the end of their life the only thing that matters is their relationships and love. That is the only thing that remains in those final weeks.

The lesson here is surely if you have lost touch with friends or family over the years that you regret then do something about it while you still can.  Pick up the phone, write the letter or do whatever is necessary.  Don't leave it until it's too late.

5.   I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The fifth and most common regret from the 5 regrets of the dying is that many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.

This I think is one of the saddest.

People who have stayed stuck in old patterns and habits in jobs they didn't like, relationships, even living in places they didn't like. Never living the life they truly wanted or deserved for fear of change. Missing out on contentment and happiness even longing to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

Don't wait until it's too late we all have choices to make.  We only have one life let's make sure we make the most of it and enjoy every minute of it right to the end.

Bronnie has released a full length book titled The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.

It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for.

More information about regret-free living is available here. https://bronnieware.com/regrets-of-the-dying/

Home Page

More Articles