Top Five Regrets Of The Dying


Published:

Regrets. We all have them — things said or done; things left unsaid or undone. Paths that weren’t followed; opportunities missed due to fear or insecurity. The list is long, but one of the biggest regrets in life reported by a large number of people is not being there for someone at the end of life.1 In other words, being too busy with “life” to tend to those near death.

Interestingly, while a regret can be phrased either as an action or as an inaction (“I wish I had not quit high school,” versus “I wish I had stayed in high school”), regrets framed as actions tend to be more emotionally intense than regrets about inactions, but inactions tend to be longer lasting.2

Emma Freud, a columnist for The Guardian, recently explored themes of regret on social media, covering everything from relationships, work-life balance and personal passions, to addiction, illness and death. If you’re so inclined, you can take a look at some of the thousands of responses she received.3 Chances are, you’ll recognize yourself in some of them.

Top Five Regrets Of The Dying

According to Bronnie Ware, a former palliative care nurse who ended up writing a book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” based on her conversations with the dying, the biggest, most commonly cited regrets at the end of life are — beginning with the most common regret of all:4

  1. Not having the courage to live a life true to oneself but rather doing what was expected
  2. Working too much, thereby missing children’s youth and their partner’s companionship
  3. Not having the courage to express one’s feelings
  4. Not staying in touch with friends
  5. Taking life too seriously and allowing worries to diminish happiness

Ware goes a step further, however, in that she also delves into solutions for these regrets — ways for you to avoid falling into the same traps. The No. 1 regret is a valuable reminder to not give up too many of your dreams to please others (or conform to conventional standards). “It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way,” Ware says. “From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

Living Life On Your Own Terms Is Key To Dying Without (Too Many) Regrets

Virtually every man in Ware’s care listed No. 2: Missing out on family time because of excessive work. “All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence,” she writes, adding:

“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.”

No. 4 is a closely related topic. Oftentimes we get so busy we forget to keep in touch with old friends, and over time the relationship fizzles out. Then, in old age, loneliness creeps in. It can be difficult to build a friendship at any age, but it certainly does not get easier with advancing age, when poor health starts limiting your ability to get out and about to socialize. As noted by Ware, love and relationships are usually the only things of true, remaining importance when the end of life draws near.

As for No. 3, Ware notes that many “developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried” as a result of holding their feelings in and opting to keep quiet just to keep the peace. If you’re in this category, consider Ware’s commonsense advice:

“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.”

Last but not least, at the end of life, many finally realize that happiness is an inside job. It’s a choice, not a side effect of living any particular kind of life. “[D]eep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again,” Ware writes, wisely noting that once you’re on your deathbed, you will not be worrying about what others think of you, so why not choose happiness now, while you still have a lot of life left?

The Importance Of Relationships And Self-Care

Longevity research strongly supports Ware’s overall findings. The same things that people report regretting are also the things centenarians “get right.” In interviews and surveys with centenarians,5 including the ones interviewed in “How to Live to 100,” two of the most important factors contributing to longevity are having a strong social network of family and friends, and keeping a sense of humor.

The importance of social support has also been scientifically verified. An American meta-analysis6 of published studies found strong social support is actually the No. 1 factor that determines longevity and survival. The influence of social support on mortality is so great, it surpasses the influence of weight and even eclipses the influence of smoking.

A 2012 article7 in Forbes Magazine listed 25 top regrets reported by people. Here — in addition to all of the regrets already listed — one of the biggest regrets was not standing up to bullies, be it in school or at work. In hindsight, many feel they should have spoken out and taken a firm stand, even at the risk of losing their job.

Another regret that is bound to be pertinent for a vast majority of people these days is allowing the smartphone to take up too much of our time and attention. Related to that one is the regret of “not teaching my kids to do more stuff,” be it raking leaves, learning to throw a ball, cleaning their room, camping or any number of other activities. On this list of regrets you also have “not taking care of my health when I had the chance.” Indeed, many pay no attention to their health at all unless or until there’s a problem.

Unfortunately, by that time, you have a struggle ahead of you, as most health problems are far easier to prevent than they are to treat. Not to mention the emotional and financial strain and stress a chronic health problem can cause. At the end of life, many wish they’d made self-care a priority. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you’ve not let self-care slide off your radar. Remember, some of the simplest lifestyle strategies can have tremendous impact, such as:

At The End Of Life, Most Wish They’d Lived More In The Moment

Another common regret is regretting not living more in the moment. As constant connectivity via smartphones and other technologies increases, more and more people are bound to experience this regret at the end of their life as the years wear on. “Living in the now” is a major component of happiness, and a significant way to grow in gratitude, both of which also have an impact on health and longevity.

It’s really difficult to cultivate gratitude if you’re constantly running; always looking ahead, or, alternatively, looking to the past. Gratitude requires you to be in the moment, and appreciate what’s in front of you right now. A commonly recommended practice that can be very helpful is to keep a daily gratitude journal. This can be done in a paper journal, or you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.8

In one 2015 study,9 participants who kept a gratitude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for four times a week for three weeks reported improvements in depression, stress and happiness. A mindfulness intervention, consisting of a mindfulness diary and mindfulness meditation, led to similar improvements. Remember, you tend to get more of what you focus on, so be mindful of the kinds of thoughts you entertain.

Your brain can actually become “hardwired” to feel anxiety, depression, irritability or anger the longer and the more frequent such thoughts are allowed to persist. As noted by Robert Emmons in “The Little Book of Gratitude:” “Everything we do creates connections within networks of the brain, and the more you repeat something, the stronger those connections get. The mind can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain.”

If you struggle with pessimism, give the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) a try. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians used in acupuncture. It’s an effective way to quickly restore your inner balance and healing and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

Your Life Is Your Own, Live It The Way You Want To

The take-home message here is this: If you’re currently doing, or avoiding doing, something you know you’d regret if you only had weeks left to live, change course now. Don’t wait years or decades. Eventually, you’ll run out of time and be left holding a bag of regrets.

Your life is your own — you’re the only one who can live it successfully, so follow your dreams and passions, and let go of unnecessary baggage and false limitations. At the end of your life, you’ll realize you don’t care about what other people think of you nearly as much as you believe today, and — if you’re like most — you’ll come to the realization that happiness is in fact an ever-present choice.

This article was brought to you by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For more helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your free Take Control of Your Health E-book!

See also:
Five Things I Have Learned Since Five Regrets
What Ancient Cultures Teach Us About Grief, Mourning And Continuity Of Life

Sources and References
1, 3 The Guardian November 1, 2017
2 Business Insider January 1, 2016
4 Bronnieware.com, Regrets of the Dying
5 WebMD July 29, 2008
6 PLOS Medicine July 27, 2010
7 Forbes October 18, 2012
8 Gratitude Journal app
9 J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Apr;21(4):243-5.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

November 20, 2018

As the Aries Moon forms a late-morning opposition to Venus many folks overcome shyness and reach out for love, approval and affection. Due to testing angles from Pluto, motives may be suspect, so be sure to observe social norms. The Moon is also moving…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2018

Join us and take your intuitive skills to the next level! The goal of this series is to create a sanctuary of learning and support where all can deepen their connection to spirit, stretch...

Cost: $45

Where:
Private Office
6 Royal Crest Drive
Apt 11
North Andover, MA  01845
View map »


Sponsor: Sacred Spiral Dance
Telephone: 978-973-6637
Contact Name: Diana Harris
Website »

More information

Celebrate and give thanks for harvest of the summers effort! We have a fun line up of readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while you enjoy shopping...

Cost: $60—3 15 min. sessions (45 min total), $25—15 min. session

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Unit A
Salem, MA  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers—Heavven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Where do they go? A chat about what happens when a person passes. Where do they go? This is a question psychic medium Diane Lewis has been asked over and over again. Many of us wonder,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Together We Can New England
148 Thompson Road
Webster, MA, MA  01570
View map »


Sponsor: Together We Can New England
Telephone: 508-943-1637
Contact Name: Caryl
Website »

More information

Kinetic Chain Release, moxibustion and past life regression at Leapin Lizards. Every third Sunday: 9/16/18 10/21/18 11/18/18 12/16/18 For information, call Leapin Lizards at (207)...

Where:
Leapin Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME
View map »


Telephone: (207) 221-2363
Website »

More information

This three-part series attunes you as a conduit to the healing system of Kundalini Reiki, a firey earth-based feminine energy. Kundalini Reiki is a gentle yet powerful modality to channel healing...

Cost: $150

Where:
Akasha Studio
20 Birch Street
Roslindale, MA  02131
View map »


Sponsor: Miriam Katz, Shamanic Healer
Telephone: 617-545-5142
Contact Name: Miriam Katz
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Katie Malloy Ramaci  Expand your connection to the angels by learning IET levels 2 and 3 certification. Truly move forward on your path. Learn Soulstar activation and release...

Cost: $1099 (Early Bird $999)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Join the Heart’s Desire Herd of Empowered Equines in Rochester, Massachusetts for an afternoon of peace and serenity. Remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Discover...

Cost: $65—some partial scholarships available

Where:
Heart’s Desire Stable
Rochester, MA  02770


Sponsor: Heart's Desire Stable
Telephone: 508-763-5254
Contact Name: Chris Korben
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags