Top Five Regrets Of The Dying

mosaicwomanSusie Steinert in the Guardian on the divide between the lives people should be living, and the lives they are living. A common theme: don’t become closed off emotionally in the name of routine or not making waves:

Bronnie 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.

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.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Read More: Guardian

54 Comments on "Top Five Regrets Of The Dying"

  1. What a great, sad article.

    • Wow, check out the denial and defensiveness on parade in the source page’s comments section!

      • Chad Weeks | Feb 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm |

        Because most of the human race is a bunch of cynical dickheads, I wouldn’t expect any less.  Ugh.  So it just isn’t Americans that are first class assholes anymore.

      • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

        Well, you have to admit, the idea of taking a deep look into the furthest reaches of your soul and finding nothing there could be quite frightening for some people.

        There seems to be extreme variability in human competencies, so I think it makes sense that people stick with what they know out of fear, even if the current paradigm works against them.

        • It’s all a matter of story.  Do we write our own or take dictation from an external body?   Glad to see more people are utilizing cannabis and hopefully many other plant teachers and entheogens.  It’s just getting past that whole pesky fear of death thing.  Once you eclipse that the way tends to open up I’ve found.

          • Tonymav2001 | Feb 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm |

            In a great unfinished book – “The Man Without Qualities” Robert Musil asks the question this way  ” Are we what we become or do we become what we are ??? ( Oh – he is Without Qualities not because he is a loser but because- like white light – he is made up of all the colors so doesnt know really who or what he is.) I think it is not either/or but a lot of both – your job is to giure out how to fix the mix. 

  2. Anarchy Pony | Feb 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

    I wish I had launched a global insurrection against the oligarch classes and smashed state power…

  3. Carpe Diem | Feb 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm |

    I wish I had wrestled an alligator while skydiving on DMT.

  4. Seems to me our way of government has done a lot of things to prevent these things from happening. For instance..

    1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. – This is not what our industrial society encourages. We know this from our early suppression in grammar school and from our parents. Our parents and teachers set high expectations for us from a young age that we strive to achieve for whatever reason.

    2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. – When homes are expensive and jobs pay less, you end up working more to make ends meet. Also, most of us need full-time employment for health insurance.

    3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. – Once again, society does not encourage this type of behavior. People who express themselves are routinely labeled as crazy or whatever expletive you’d like to insert and are generally unaccepted.

    4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. – Don’t we all? Personally, I noticed friends stop dropping off after I graduated high school, then more dropped off when I became a parent. People grow apart, it happens.

    5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. – Easier said than done. With all of the constraints burdened on us from our industrialized nation it’s harder and harder to get a moment alone to breathe, let alone ‘let yourself be happy.’ I always feel like when I am truly happy, it just happens. I don’t have to let it.

    I don’t mean to pick this apart, and I think the story is absolutely wonderful. This is just my take on it.

    • Well said Erica, Thank you for writing 🙂

    • Mr Willow | Feb 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

      Seems to me our way of government has done a lot of things to prevent these things from happening.

      I agree with all your points, but it seems to me that the problems you cite have less to do with ‘government’ and more to do with industrialism and socio-economic peer pressure to give up on your dreams and be comfortable in a cubicle job, accepting the notion that money=happiness.

      • Jin The Ninja | Feb 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm |

        a cubicle job, would be certainly be my death. i didn’t waste all that time majoring in humanities to sit in a cubicle doing marketing research. i’ll never give up the library, stale and musty it may be- i love it;)

        • Anarchy Pony | Feb 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm |

          I prefer working outside. Those horse stalls aren’t going to clean themselves, and the apple trees don’t prune themselves either. 
          And I’ve always found that doing manual labor actually gives one a lot of time to think and ruminate on various subjects. I find it to be quite enjoyable, really.

          • i know exactly how you feel

          • Some of the happiest people I have met were engaged in manual labor of various sorts. I became fascinated why these individuals appeared to have a realistic view of the world and were generally speaking, nicer, kinder and just more content. I found that when you do manual labor you can visually see what you cleaned, pruned, built and that gives you a sense of accomplishment and it takes your energy and turns it into something tangible/real..the other huge positive was that being physically active actually makes you feel better. Combine those two and you are on your way…

          • artemis133 | Feb 23, 2012 at 2:27 am |

             That’s the way I feel. I’m 52, work in a warehouse at a very physically demanding job, but I feel calm and happy, and when I get home from my shift, I have a genuine tiredness that comes from hard physical work.

          • Jin The Ninja | Feb 9, 2012 at 2:56 am |

            it does. and mucking horse stalls? been there.

            i remember the story of the sage and the wood cutter.

            the sage recognises the wood cutter as brother in “enlightenment” (to borrow a buddhist term) because of his mindfullness in doing labour.

            but being urban my entire life, i certainly lack the industriousness of the rural.

          • Amen brother. Primary reason I became a painter instead of staying a corporate office geek…good hard work keeps the body well…but leaves the mind free to contemplate. I come home able to write and compose on subjects…whereas a decade ago all i could do was come home and vegetate.

          • Anarchy Pony | Feb 9, 2012 at 10:46 pm |

            That’s how school always made me feel. All I wanted was to veg after school, sit and passively watch tv or something, homework always made me want to claw my own eyes out. But while I mow the lawn or something similar my mind just churns and churns and when I finish I want to come inside and read or look up things online or look for a new documentary I haven’t seen before. 

        • Mr Willow | Feb 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm |

          Cubicles are prison cells, for the mind and the spirit. . . 

        • I worked at a library, as a page (pun recognized), until Cipro damaged my foot.  Color me envious.

      • I say the government because that’s where the corporations that encourage the industrialization spread their roots. Our public school systems, owned and operated by governments, are industrialized in this fashion as well.

    • For #5 you sound like you are going to grow old not being happy and say: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”  There is a lesson in this old wisdom.

      • At 24, I’m still too young to make that kind of assumption about my future. In my current state, I have to admit that I’m not always ‘happy’. Not with all aspects of my life, but I am optimistic. What I work on now is meant to encourage my happiness in the future. Isn’t having a bright outlook in a dreary day what makes life worth living?

        •  Everyone is different and yet the same.  What I feel is that you will never be happy if today is not a good day.  When will it be a good happy day?  It starts now.  Only you know what satisfies you, it an inside job.

          Oh, one day I’ll be happy but not right now?  I’m not at the top of my game but I look for the things that make me smile, that make others smile and not worry so much about me.  Enjoy the day, it’s all you really have.

    • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 3, 2012 at 12:28 pm |

      Your answer:  legally mandated 20-hour work week.

    • Karen Carcamo | Mar 4, 2012 at 10:30 pm |

      Following what society dictates is a choice…

    • while that’s all true, we have to take responsibility for our own happiness at the end of the day and not blame society or the government or others.  

  5. Hadrian999 | Feb 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm |

    My list would be much more hedonistic than that

    • Tonymav2001 | Feb 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm |

      Probably #5 includes a A LOT of that!!! Hedonism is for the most part has a ” Do BY Date”
      some of it you reret not soing 50 or more years before you die

  6. Not in the top five were things like “I wish I had donated more to charity” or “I wish I contributed more to society.” I’d like to know where more selfless pre-death sentiments would rank.

    What I suspect is that, as the blackness that has been circling overhead since the day of your birth finally bares down you, you realize that not having let yourself live a life for yourself has deprive you of the only opportunity you had to do so. That there has not been, nor is there to be, any great reward for having sacrificed so much of your own happiness; for having forgone so many of your own desires in the name of existing within the boundaries of some pre-established template for a proper life that had been set before you during some of your earliest and most malleable years.

    • *bears*

    • Anarchy Pony | Feb 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm |

      Yeah, so let’s go out and kill some hookers, and then burn down people’s housed for fun and shoot them as they run out, and become CEOs and loot the companies pension funds and then drill for oil in some pristine wilderness, then build racetracks and kidnap homeless people and force them to drive death machines and kill each other for a million dollars. After all, your wants are more important than anyone else’s.

  7. Apart from this article being really depressing, I don’t have to worry about number 2 very much!

    Yay for life!

  8.  “I have never regretted that vasectomy!”
    “Thank Christ for mind altering drugs!”
    I have no regrets so far.

  9. Tonymav2001 | Feb 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm |

    Wonderful comments and things to think about – if only we could summon this clarity of vision BEFORE our lives ended and  know and understand the consequences involved in doing what is needed to live an authentic life. Going against what is expected can have serious consequences – rejection or misunderdatanding by friends and family. A prerequisite to doing all these things is to develope a strong and self sufficient SELF. Without that authenticity is merely a wish not a reasonable goal.

  10. Namelesswon | Feb 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm |

    I wished I didn’t waste my time writing shit on the interweb.

  11. #6 ??

    “I wish I wasn’t about to fucking die.” 

    • tooCents, your comment so differs from the rest here that it caught me 100% off-guard — and I burst out laughing so hard I damned near cried!

      • tooCents | Mar 5, 2012 at 2:45 am |

        Cool. May aim was to get some lols out there.
        And hell truth can be funny too, sometimes. Death is perhaps the one true ‘god’ and our only prayer (baring unusual circumstances) is- “not today”.

  12. Frankensteinmoneymac | Mar 2, 2012 at 3:28 am |

    I regret not regretting things more. 

  13. because b4 we have even left school were told its more important to work hard and prepare for the future, the here and now gets lost and life passes by as we go thru our 9-5 days, then we reach retirement and think, why the hell didnt i do more with my life, oh yea, coz someone let me believe its more important to work first and have fun later 

  14. jax polok | Mar 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm |

    Yeah that’s why i quitted my last job where i’ve met people who had been dishonest to themselves. Now i’m not making much money, but i’ve decided to do what i’ve always wanted to, what i love. I had to change many things in life, had to come back to my hometown which seemed to be the last place i wanted to be. It’s completely new for me, but at last i do what i love and hope i will survive hahah.

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