Regrets of the dying

Regrets of the dying

Joseph Darby

Keep your finances in perspective – the top five regrets of the dying

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.

Despite having no formal qualifications or experience, Bronnie Ware found herself working in palliative care – where the patients are those who had gone home to die. Over the years she spent tending to the needs of those who were dying, Bronnie's life was transformed. Later, she wrote a blog about the most common regrets expressed to her by the people she had cared for. The blog gained so much momentum that it was read by more than three million people around the globe in its first year, and led to a book.

Bronnie learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for personal growth. Some deathbed changes and realisations were phenomenal.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.

To help you keep a sense of perspective – including when it comes to your finances – here are the most common five, as reported by Bronnie:

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 hadn’t worked so hard

This apparently came from every male patient that Bronnie nursed. Some missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. All the men Bronnie nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the working ‘treadmill’.

Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it’s 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 to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Some 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 important 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 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 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 people 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 often to themselves, that they were content. Deep down inside, this wasn’t always the case – many 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.

The bottom line

So what? Here’s a summary of how this might be able to improve your life:

  1. Have courage to live a life true to yourself, not what others expect
  2. Keep work in perspective
  3. Express your feelings
  4. Stay in touch with your friends
  5. Let yourself be happy

Life is about choices, it’s your life. Choose consciously, wisely, and honestly. Choose happiness.

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