Then, yesterday The Guardian had an article written by Susie Steiner about what people regretted the most when they were on their death bed. The article fascinated me and it made me pause to reconsider what I had listed a couple of years ago. I could understand how the reality of the last moments on earth could change your list. Below is the article in its entirety because it needs to be read.
Top Five Regrets of the DyingThere was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.
Bonnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
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 realize 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 honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked 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."
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."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."Often they would not truly realize 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."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier."This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize 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."
What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?
First on my list would be ... ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. Yes, my work was important to me and it provided a good living, but I favored it too much and often it became an excuse. It wasn’t until I turned fifty or so that I began telling people that worked for me that ‘family comes first’.
#2 would be ... ‘living a life true to myself, not the life that others expected of me’. I was often concerned how others would view me. Yes, I did well in business and would be called ‘successful’ by many. However, what I did was not my dream because it seemed unrealistic ... not the smart thing to do.
#3 is something I think of often because I have let certain friends drift away. It happened partly because I moved so often (eight times in my adult life). I tried to stay in touch with some and still have several that I consider friends, but many that were special to me have disappeared.