When Ms. Bronnie Ware, a woman who worked for years with the dying, wrote a list of the top 5 regrets people say aloud on their deathbed, I teared up a little bit. Here is her original text. May it be as much a blessing to you as it was for me.
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.
4/7/2011 02:56:34 am
Sure am glad that I have none of those regrets, and can only face this terminal diagnosis with one thought, that I am so happy to have had this time on earth, to have been so priviledged to be me, and I really don't believe there is any problem with dying, because it is part of the path, and all of the journey is as it should be......live in love and you will live in life!
13/7/2013 10:59:46 am
Thanks Sid for sharing these beautiful words. Deathbed regrets is a really great topic to think about, because given the awareness of other people's regrets, we can choose to live life to the full. I've extended on that idea and written a sensitive response here: http://greenminimalism.com/2013/07/13/top-5-deathbed-regrets-and-why-they-dont-bother-me/
7/7/2011 11:35:18 am
I realised a few years ago many of these faults lay in my life...I have changed for the better.. But realise if I were to die next week...I would be so bitter about not having the courage to be me..no matter what people think..!! Life is short..so live it to the full we are here for a good time,not a long time
How refreshing to read these comments, I believe most people are genuine, except we take more and more on board these days and lose ourselves in work or other people, we can still be decent people but also selfish and do what we want from time to time.The balance of our lives is crucial and also realising this before it's too late
3/8/2011 01:14:58 pm
I am grateful for all the " golden friendships" I have.
28/8/2011 08:19:13 am
30/8/2011 07:12:08 am
Good to remember these important aspects of our lives and live them now.
30/8/2011 06:36:08 pm
There is always the danger...or the emptiness of a life with nothing to remember and nothing to forget
31/8/2011 05:04:33 am
A wonderful article. I hope I will have the good sense to seriously reflect on this rather than forgetting about it as I plunge into another busy day. Thanks for posting!
31/8/2011 12:00:10 pm
This really was revealing. I sat with my mom before she passed and could scarcely understand that (at that time) she had found the peace of acceptance. After reading this i am now w/o any more words , but thanks.
31/8/2011 03:14:48 pm
Life do you love it? or do you hate it?It's the way We made it.
1/9/2011 12:56:18 am
really well said, touched me because for years I tried to live as I thought others wanted me to live, I am happier now, I do not have everything I want but I do have what I need and this is the recognition that changed my life
1/9/2011 01:19:43 am
very touching and revealing of what one goes through in their last days. I know that if I have prior knowledge of my passing that I would feel the same. I hope that before that time; I will allow myself to be happy and content.
1/9/2011 08:14:31 am
I have been with 5 of my closest family when they were returning to God. One was dreaming of being at home AND eating p&j sandwiches and drinking Pepsi(age 4) Another wanted to be home and laughing with family like they used to.(age 72) One said he never told people how much he loved them enough and to remember to say it often..(age 33) One said Take care of yourself and live your life.you are to young to mourn forever.(age 55) One said I am going home either way..I just feel bad that so many people will be hurt if I don't make it..age 36..he said no goodbyes Mom....I love you.
1/9/2011 09:50:57 am
The first about 38 years of my life I suffered the fate of childhood
1/9/2011 02:59:34 pm
Age old question on your death bed.........should I have pursued the person I loved even though I was married.
23/2/2012 01:39:22 am
I pursued the one I truly loved for 62 years. I was married to her for 60 years. Our marriage was made in heaven. Many times we drastically disagred. Our love for each other and the Lord Jesus Christ was our hope and future. She is with the Lord now13 months ago and I am ready to join her any time the Lord calls me home. John 3:16.
1/9/2011 05:24:13 pm
Even if I want to live life to the fullest, there are always obstacles. I can never say, "No."
2/9/2011 02:40:39 am
" Its never to late to be ---
2/9/2011 07:47:30 am
What uplifting messages! Sometimes when we let the dark side of life with all its trials, tribulations and misery get the best of us, its hard to appreciate the blessings each and everyone of us has been given in this life, yet the reality of God's love and unconditional acceptance of who and what we are or have chosen to be is a constant in our everyday living, reflections, etc. It is truly a miraculous blessing to be HERE AND NOW. Thank you Dear Lord! Thank you Universe!
3/9/2011 01:25:03 am
This article is horrible. the tips and advice given by these people are simply wrong. I think you would be better off doing the exact opposite in life.
5/9/2011 08:47:13 pm
I am surprised it took so long for some miserable asshole to come along and take something positive and uplifting and try to put a negative spin on it. Thinking there is a wrong way for other people to live their life and your way is right might be a good starting place for you to figure out why you are a negative person. Maybe you just need a hug. :-)
6/9/2011 12:50:49 pm
Tears released for sadness and joy. They are so close. Darlene and Lisa, your comments touched me. Thanks, Jean, this reminder of the truly important stuff of this life has been a blessing.
6/9/2011 02:47:00 pm
I work with the elderly, some are dying. I have heard similar, but I believe in the more intimate setting of hospice a deeper conversation, will be had. These tips/this information is true. Don't let the time to make changes pass you by. Take care everyone and don't forget to live.
6/9/2011 11:57:56 pm
So very true..though i have started practising to work towards realizing my dreams and making my present happier by loving each and every soul around me to a large extent..this article has given me further insight as to" ALL GOES WELL if one sets HEALTH AS A ---TOP PRIORITY "and work towards having a proper work balance...Work while you work and play while you play...PLAY .LAUGHTER , JOY of giving LOVE is MANDATORY element and serves as a tonic to strengthen the SOUL and keep it healthy...
7/9/2011 08:28:03 am
It`s so true! You know we all can learn this 5 things and do them in our lives, it`s true that we all have different lives but we do tend to do the same errors. We should be intelligent enough to learn from this article and change our lives to positive while we can! There is always time to change and do things better!
7/9/2011 01:05:14 pm
An adage in my yoruba native language says "Eniyan ni aso ti o dabo ara" which means the cloth you wear to cover your nakedness is people around you. In essence, the most important thing in life is relationships..with others and more importantly with God....after you die you face your maker..God thro Christ..the question many also ask on their death bed is what next?? are you prepared to meet him.....?
8/9/2011 11:02:28 am
All of those advices are in God's instructions to us on how to prioritize our lives.
8/9/2011 11:31:55 am
8/9/2011 11:36:49 am
Oops! Hit the return key too soon.
8/9/2011 03:08:55 pm
8/9/2011 05:05:30 pm
This is a bueatiful, touching and true article. I just wonder how or why a relationship with God does not make the top five. It is sad that God is not top of the list when we are at the top of his list. God loves us so much he made this world for us and we owe or health to him. I know I may sound crazy for saying this but not saying it would have been on my list of regrets. So I hope that those of us who are alive can get to know the living God that sent his son to die for us so that we can have evlasting life in heaven. Thank you God for your live.
8/9/2011 11:54:40 pm
I few thoughts:
9/9/2011 03:18:00 am
Well said Lin, I feel a whole life better.
9/9/2011 04:30:06 am
I think god is not mentioned, because there is no god. Great article. For me it is all about using my Self as a vehicle for this unified experience of consciousness. we are all one. No birth. No death. The self is a necessary by not sufficient construct. Our separateness is an illusion, as is the concept of time, and with it the constructs of birth and death. Only our self can die, and it was but a creation of our own consciousness anyway. When we connect with the world around us in a loving and compassionate way, we recognize this illusion of a separate self, which makes it much easier to say good bye to that illusion when we change into new forms of energy.
9/9/2011 04:44:34 am
@Stephanie Crow: I have never, ever heard anyone say, "I wish I'd spent more time at church," or "I wish I'd spent more time praying." Maybe a relationship with a deity isn't on the list because people don't think they're missing anything by not having it, or by not having more of it than they did to begin with.
10/9/2011 02:16:28 am
What a great piece. Thank you for writing it and giving us some insight into the things we all might regret someday if we don't live the way we want to now. I hope most people, when dying, aren't feeling too regretful but it's completely understandable if they are in at least some ways. Beautiful piece. Again, thank you.
13/9/2011 09:17:27 pm
makes me think ofmy favorite unknown-authored quote:
16/9/2011 09:47:36 am
Maybe we shouldn't focus on making ourselves happy all the time, most of us are safe and secure. Look at the millions who are starving, we should spend our time working out how to help them eat rather than how to simply please ourselves. the 'I'm alright Jack' attitude makes me sick, wake up people. If you have Internet you have far more than others, let's stop being so selfish and be thankful and rather than feeling sorry for ourselves let's use our energy to help those who need it.
18/9/2011 10:15:28 pm
So true. Oh that i may nt waste my days but live life to the fullest and allow myself be happier. Life is truelly short. The other day i ws just a kid when my uncle got married. today he has four kids. I thought to myself -hw will i be 10 yrs from nw? with these 5 insights, i think am pretty sure my last days(if am nt raptured) will be with out regrets. We shld nt forget also tht letting God ve full control of our lives should be no.1 . thx
19/9/2011 09:51:17 pm
Am so thankful to this and all those who have given us the insight of this.so touching and refreshing.am sure on ma deathbed, I will not have regrets,right from school, ma teacher taught us how bad regrets in life are.in primary seven,he would tells to read hard in order to pass with flying colours.he taught us to avoid regrets like I wish had read I would have passed highly or gone to such a good school.since then, I hate regrets in life.whatever I do, I try to do it to ma best at least it just fails on the way but I will say I tried to ma best and God knows that.hate regret.however,just as friends have commented,we need not only to do what makes us happy but also to do what makes others happy.thus not leaving a life of selfishness but also for others like our
12/10/2011 04:31:26 am
I wonder if we would regret not pursuing the love of our lives - if we were already married - if we knew down deep we preserved our families. What would have been considered the correct course of action? Should we have suffered in silence so others didn't suffer, or should we tried to have been with the person we truly loved? Someone tell me the preferred answer.
7/11/2011 10:40:56 pm
Inspirational post. I mean moving up the corporate ladder has been a goal of mine from the start, so I wouldn't say that would necessarily be slaving away. At the same time, I do worry about being caught up in work too much and missing out on some other things in life…good to think about!
during the last 3 years i have sat with 2 of my 4, includes myself, siblings as they passed from complications of cancers. After this sobering raw experience i find i have rushed to do what matters to me...in one occasion i moved back to my home town ..in the most recent of my brothers death i am returning to being in an environment of my choice hopefully bringing me closer to actualizing an undernurtured gift/talent everyone says i have and i agree...watching people you love who have been such an important part of creating what we like to call "our life", take their last breaths, and it was surprising to me that physically people die pretty much in the same way, the line between life and death is so so slim and slivery...it was so easy for the disease to claim them...shuts those systems right down and boom! they're gone! i don't have the audacity to say i know there is or is not a god, some of the propaganda, and that is what some of it is, does not ring true as being from a perfect and loving all encompassing being such as god would surely have to be to be god... i have often thought maybe the whole expanding universe is gods brain..an entity such as god would surely have to be something that huge and beyond our puny human comprehension would it not? so why do we humans try to fit and shove this god into such small boxes by limiting it to fall within our simple and much of the time stupid human confines? anyway i am appalled every day of my life how little time we get here to accomplish and learn and grow and truly have all the opportunity to live fully sometimes it would take many of our lifetimes to have said we were able to live fully being all those things stated in the article on dying are not simple to achieve nor are they natural to our blundering ways...we are blocked by our egos which are merely part of our human nature...we are tortured with many unanswerable questions throughout life and we many times feel we are not meeting up with like minded like hearted individuals so we walk our way lonely and longing for this companionship...life is a complete mystery...i wonder if my sister and brother exist in some wonderful, untethered, love filled form and wish they could communicate this to us still here wondering so we would not be afraid for them, who have passed, and for ourselves, still here...it is all so big and unfathomable...that when we watch someone actually just die i'll tell you what....you can't believe how easy it looks.
13/12/2011 05:08:33 pm
Thanks for your blog.. enjoyable
22/12/2011 10:17:01 am
Mother Theresa said it all " If we can't help one another while we are here what's the point of being here"
23/11/2012 06:07:30 am
It was amazing to read this article.
11/1/2013 01:06:06 pm
9/10/2013 01:07:21 am
It is wonderful article. I hope I will have the good sense to seriously reflect on this rather than forgetting about it as I plunge into another busy day. Thanks for posting!
ersilio Joseph Rossi
8/9/2017 10:51:56 am
Those of us who are Christians know that death is not the end
31/12/2020 10:20:34 am
Thank you foor writing this
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