Death is something unavoidable, but it is not something all of us really think about as we go through our daily lives. Everyday, we make plans – plan where to eat, plan to get off work early, plan to go to a party, and so on.
As we live in the moment, we, sometimes, make decisions that seem to be the best during the time we are faced to make them. But if you’ve found out that you have just a few days left to live, would you change anything you normally do? Or do you believe you have no regrets on how you live your life?
An Australian caregiver has observed the common regrets dying people have when she cared for them for the last 12 weeks of their lives.
Bronnie Ware is a live-in caregiver for palliative care from New South Wales, Australia. She took care of terminally ill patients.
Since her job involved living with the patients as she took care of them, she grew close to some of the patients she cared for. Having worked in the palliative care industry for several years, Bronnie noticed that many patients share their regrets in life and decided to compile the most common regrets her patients had.
She then posted these observations on her blog in 2009, the post was entitled “Regrets of the Dying”. Her post gathered so many reactions and was read more than eight million times.
Bronnie then wrote a memoir regarding it, and it became a best seller. The memoir was translated in 29 languages and was sold internationally.
According to Bronnie, these are the top five 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.”
Bronnie said that this first regret came from many patients she used to care for, but most particularly, from female patietns. She said that this was also the greatest regret of one of the patients she grew close to named Grace. Grace made her promise that she would live a life true to herself, said Bronnie. And according to her, this was the most common regret of all.
Bronnie also said that “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.” She believed the patients who have had this regret are mostly women because having lived in an earlier time, they had just lived being homemakers because their husbands were the breadwinners.
2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
If the first regret came mostly from women, Bronnie’s male patients usually had the second regret. She even said that every male patient she’s taken care of have had this regret. They regretted not spending enough time with their families and missing their kids growing up.
3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
Bronnie said that many people suppress how they truly feel that they stop themselves from what they could become. She also said that many have had illnesses because of the bitterness and resentment they carried with them. In an interview after the book was released, she said that she hopes the third regret might not be as common in the younger generations because now, people have learned how to open up more.
4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
Regretting letting valuable friendships slip by is the fourth regret dying people have. According to Bronnie, most of the time, people only recognize the true importance of friendships when they are dying and that tracking friends down isn’t always possible. She added, in an interview, that in spite of the rise of social media sites where old friends can connect, letting friendships slip by still occurs.
5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
This fifth regret is quite common for the dying, too, said Bronnie. She said that being afraid of change, wanting to please others, and being stuck in old habits and routines have gotten in the way of them attaining true happiness.
Bronnie authored other books after “Regrets of the Dying”. She also became an inspirational speaker as well as a songwriter.
We may be too scared to admit it, but death truly is inevitable. Live your life to the fullest, spend time with people you love, and above all, do things that would make you genuinely happy – so in the end, you would not have any regrets.