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

March 24, 2019

Retrograde Mercury makes the second in a series of three conjunctions with mystical Neptune today. The pairing sparks imaginations as well as idealistic ambitions. Old and new dreams vie for equal attention. The Scorpio Moon lends its support for…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

March 2019

Save $25 by registering for both workshops! You may register for Part 1 only, however, Part 1 is a prerequisite for Part 2. You must have completed Part 1 to participate in Part 2. ...

Cost: $225

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, Suite 1-A
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

With Julie Rost Meditation is more important now than ever, and yet is seemingly unattainable to so many people. This retreat is intended to motivate you from within, through the actual...

Cost: $175 ($150 when you register by March 1st)

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-479-3865
Contact Name: Julie Rost
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Jerry Marchand at Wisdom of the Ages, Simsbury, CT. Shop rare crystals and join us for live Celtic harp and guided meditation! 

Cost: $15

Where:
Wisdom of the Ages
Simsbury, CT


Telephone: (860) 651-1172
Website »

More information

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use your...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

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

Have you heard of natural birth control and wondered how that can be possible? Or are you trying to or planning to conceive? This session is for you! We’ll talk about the benefits of charting...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Democracy Center
45 Mt. Auburn St
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Sponsor: AC Fertility Awareness
Telephone: 617-899-7624
Contact Name: Anna Churchill

More information

Discover how you can release tight muscles and improve range of motion in locked joints in a weekly ESSENTRICS stretch classes led by Raindrop Fisher, certified Essentrics instructor. Raindrop is a...

Cost: $10 drop-in / $100 for 12 classes

Where:
Village at Waterman Lake
Function Room - Chalet Bldg
715 Putnam Pike
Greenville, RI  02828
View map »


Sponsor: Healthier Fit Lifestyle
Telephone: 401-678-0950
Contact Name: Raindrop Fisher
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The newest technology taps into our most primal instincts. Learn what is going on in the brain when it reacts both positively and negatively to social media. In this Neurosculpting for Social Media...

Cost: $40

Where:
BrainHckr @ Union Wellness
64 Union Square
Somerville, MA
View map »


Sponsor: BrainHckr
Telephone: 617-821-5560
Contact Name: Katie DiChiara
Website »

More information

Wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres Network with local wellness minded business owners Enjoy the coming of spring For tickets or more info: www.facebook.com/PairedPouredPlated

Where:
Paired, Poured & Plated
290 West Main Street
Northboro, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

This 8 week series in Tai Chi will provide you with everything you need to get started in a personal Tai Chi practice. Just for Beginners—there is no expectation, and no pressure in...

Cost: $137 for 8 weeks

Where:
Spiral Path Connections
218 Boston Street
Unit 104
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiral Path
Telephone: 978-314-4264
Contact Name: Johanna Hattendorf
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

March 29 - 31 The retreat will discuss whole-body treatments, give you delicious meals, and expose you to yoga postures that are safe and help to build bone density, balance and strength....

Cost: $488

Where:
Angels’ Rest Retreat
63 North County Road
Leyden, MA  01337
View map »


Sponsor: Cindy Brown
Telephone: 978-266-1940
Contact Name: Cindy Brown
Website »

More information

The heart chakra is the bridge between your physical and spiritual being. It represents the opening of feelings, compassion, and the capacity to love. This workshop offers an introduction to the...

Cost: $35

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Ross J. Miller, psychic healer, medium, regression therapist. In this unique, experiential workshop you’ll learn how to identify your guardian angels and spirit guides by name and...

Where:
Newton, MA


Telephone: (617) 527-3583
Website »

More information

1 +1 always equals 2. Well in a similar fashion EFT + Law of Attraction always equal effective and positive change.  The Law of attraction simply put is that like begets like. What you put...

Cost: $40

Where:
Northborough, MA  01532


Telephone: 508-523-7132
Website »

More information

Join us for a fun-filled afternoon of connection and communion with Spirit. Patricia Wilber-Zucker will be back with an interactive mediumship platform demonstration. Patricia, who has studied...

Cost: $35

Where:
A Place of Light
374 Main Street
Leicester, MA  01611
View map »


Sponsor: A Place of Light
Telephone: 774-289-7986
Contact Name: Susan Gale
Website »

More information

Be in the moment and instantly feel the joy! Laughter is aptly said to be the best medicine. This is one workshop that you will pat yourself on the back for taking the time out to attend. Whether...

Cost: $25 before 3/27 ($30 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

March 30–31 Relax, connect and be inspired to become alive with joy! Hosted by Julie McGrath of The Joy Source. Be inspired and motivated at the uplifting workshops designed to help you...

Cost: Single Occupancy = $345 Double Occupancy= $260 per person

Where:
Ashworth by the Sea
Hampton Beach, NH


Sponsor: The Joy Source
Contact Name: Julie McGrath
Website »

More information

With Tommy Priester. Intensive training for intermediate and advanced herbal students. This course includes facial, pulse, tongue, nails and sclera diagnosis and an herbal clinic.

Where:
, MA


Sponsor: Boston School of Herbal Studies
Website »

More information

6 Saturdays 10am–11:30am February 23–March 30, 2019 Taijiquan (Tai Chi ) is a healing martial art, using breath and movement together to strengthen the body and quiet...

Cost: $120

Where:
Metta Wellness
679 Pleasant Street
Paxton, MA  01612
View map »


Sponsor: Metta Wellness
Telephone: 774-245-5487
Contact Name: Rick Rocha
Website »

More information

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