Can you avoid dying with regret? A palliative nurse shares the common regrets she hears again and again. Maybe knowing this will help lead a more meaningful life.
Bonnie Ware of New South Wales, Australia spent many years as a palliative nurse working with patients in their final hours. During their last moments, these patients opened up about their lives and regrets. A popular theme throughout was wishing they had had more courage and five specific regrets appear frequently.
What are the most common regrets people have in their last moments?
1. I wish I’d lived for me and not others’ expectations of me.
The most common regret was a desire to go back and live life more authentically. Everyone has dreams and aspirations, but we often never fulfill them. Ware encourages us to follow at least a few of our dreams and live our authentic lives. Do what you want to do and not what you think others want you to do.
2. I wish I’d spent less time at work.
Male patients seemed to all express this regret. Ware notes that because of the demographic she works with, few women had had careers. They prioritized work over family and friends and came to regret it. There will always be work, but it’s important to remember family and friends along the way.
3. I wish I’d been honest about my feelings.
In our culture, we tend to suppress our true feelings and emotions. It seems easier to bottle up emotions rather than risk the consequence of being honest. This leads to emotional illnesses and even physical ailments as well. Ware points out that we can’t control others, but we can control how we react to them. We should accept how we’re actually feeling and respond according to that. Even though it seems more difficult, honesty is healthier and more respectful.
4. I wish I’d stayed closer with friends.
In their dying days, many remembered great friendships that had slipped away or, until then, been forgotten. Busyness with family and work takes over and close friendships can slip away. While many choose financial stability, “[i]t all comes down to love and relationships in the end.” Few worry about their bank accounts or the tidiness of their in their final days and hours. Many reminisce about the connections they made in their lifetime.
5. I wish I’d chosen happiness.
Happiness is a choice, but few realize this until it’s too late. Patients regretted staying in patterns and avoiding change for comfort. In your final moments your concern won’t be others’ perception of you, it will be how you spent your days. Don’t pretend to be content, instead choose to take risks and chose happiness.
Choose to be courageous and live without regrets.
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