Palliative Nurse Shares The Top Five 'Life Regrets' From Her Dying Patients March 2012
Dying is the only certainty we have in life, but when we get there, we would like to think we've accomplished all of our goals. Those goals change from decade to decade, but in the last 12 weeks of our lives, what really matters to us most is not sex, money, possessions or trips around the world. A nurse in palliative care who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives.
Despite having no formal qualifications or experience, Bronnie Ware found herself working as a nurse in palliative care. Over the years she spent tending to the needs of those who were dying, especially in the last 12 weeks of their lives, Bronnie's life was transformed.
Bronnie has had a colourful and diverse past, but by applying to her own life the lessons of those nearing their death, she developed an understanding that it is possible for people - if they make the right choices - to die with peace of mind. 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 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. Health brings a freedom very few realise, 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 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 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 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 to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
It is important to accept the fact that life itself is full of regret for so many people, but it doesn't have to be. Every single choice you have made in your life has led you to where you are today. You simply would not be who you are today without those choices, and whether you perceive them as good or bad, they have expanded the deepest levels of your being.
All that matters in life is who you are at this very moment.
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift! That's why it's called the present. ~ Master Oogway
Live life to the fullest...cherish your friends and family...follow your dreams and know that when you reach the end of your life, everything was how it was for a reason. Everything is how it should be.
Michael Forrester is a spiritual counselor and is a practicing motivational speaker for corporations in Japan, Canada and the United States.