Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed


I am posting this because we all need some reminding about what is important in life before it’s too late.  These are regrets from folks who are out of time and we should at least read what dying people have to say.  I have been with many dying patients and their families who often express the same regrets and speak to me on behalf of their loved ones and themselves.  

Life at times can be unexpectedly short and I am not sure I want to look back having too many regrets.  Although it is really hard I find to actually live without complaints or worries.  Cherish the ones that are close to you….that is hard to remember with this crazy world we live in but a good thing to try to practice.  Working?  Well, too bad we adventure riders were not financially supported to go out and see the world…we have to work right?  Work hard, make a lot of money so we can travel?  Fine line trying to work out that balance in life. 

This is a simple yet poignant article and maybe if one of the readers of  this blog learns something, changes something in their life because of the wisdom of dying people then it is worth the post.  I for one will try to practice what they “preach” or shall I say warn us living folks about what not to do.

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.
I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

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 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 didn’t work 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.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is 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 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.

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 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.

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 do want to 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 is 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 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. 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.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Source: Received via Email

33 Comments

  1. Jason Dommer says:

    Wow, I can easily see a couple of these things being put on the side-line already. I need to reevaluate my priorities.

  2. Don Plummer says:

    Hmmm
    1 This is an ongoing thing. I gotta just keep going at
    2… Well, I think I’ve got this one pretty well covered LOL.
    3 Is a real problem for me
    4 I’m a genuine loner so I don’t feel I have any real regrets on this
    5 I’m not sure I really understand this one. Perhaps that’s an indication it’s a problem area
    When I reflect on my life I kinda think I’m sorta doing ok, maybe

  3. Second chance says:

    Thanks once again for another great post. I always look forward to see what is the next thing you have to share!

  4. nwroadrat says:

    A really insightful post and confessing I probably struggle with all five. Thanks for sharing.

  5. David Burgis says:

    This is a very interesting article with a lot of truth to it, I had a near death experience four years ago that changed they way I look at life and reminded me how fragile it can be, I have quite a things that I want to do at one time or another some that are now being planned for as I write this note.Thanks for the Reminder.

    • advgrrls says:

      Care to elaborate on your experience?

      • Blessings on you for sharing this. So good to have validation that awareness and choices are part of personal responsibility and that happiness is a choice we all can make one moment at a time. Gratitude for small and large daily gifts in life is often helpful in getting us back on track to what is really important in life. Thanks again for the refreshment and sincere sentiment. Kelly G

  6. Henriette says:

    Thanks for posting this! Something we all need to be reminded of. I definitely need to work harder on #1 and #3.

    I agree that #5 might be the most important, and a catalyst for 1-4. Often fear is controlling us and keeping us from letting go. Being more flexible, having less ego, being childish and jumping up and down in excitement, laughing more and choosing to be happy, can make many choices a lot easier.

    People sometimes tell me “Argh, but you’re always happy”. They just don’t know that it takes great effort from me. I choose to focus on what’s good rather than what’s negative. I let go of people who take my energy and seek people who give back. I focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. Or at least I try to do this every day – and then sometimes I fail terribly.

    • advgrrls says:

      at least you are living a dream of sorts…that is part of it…not getting caught up in all the material things we feel we should have etc…Cheryl and I talk a lot about the what ifs…we are somewhat conservative when it comes to our careers and money. We both need to take stock in what we have not what we think we need and get out on the bikes for longer trips. But there is way more to this post…we all need to be content within…so what makes us feel good. Happiness takes effort for most Henriette…you are not alone and looks can be deceiving at times as well.

      Love your comment and again I need to thank you for taking time out of your day and own RR to comment on our little BLOG! Keep the shiny side up my virtual friend!

  7. David Burgis says:

    My wife and I were coming home from spring vacation in Florida in 2008 march14th Friday morning 11am bright and sunny day, north bound on Hwy 95 at Jacksonville when we got a flat tire R/R drivers side. I pulled over on the shoulder as far as I could jacked up are van put the space saver tire on just started to tighten the nuts and I looked to my right and saw a car crossing the lanes to the shoulder swerving and was going to rear end are van (Hyw speed 55mph) I got off my knees screamed my wife,s name out and that was ,I got as far as the drivers door he hit me at a speed I do not know (45-50 cop said) lucky If you can call it that, that I stood up as he would have driven over me and that would have been it. I went over the roof of the car and landed on the edge of the second lane, I was awake lying there for a few seconds trying to get my breath back, my wife said I spun though the air like a rag doll and landed on my back knocking the wing out of me I new I had broken some bones as I have bust a few before, a burning in my groin and left leg and skin rubbed off I was only wearing shorts and tee shirt. I crossed my legs put my arms around my head and rolled to the shoulder still trying to get air in my lungs, as racing bikes for along time I all ways got out of the way when I crashed to save getting run over.It all seemed like for ever but people stopped to help in seconds till the Paramedics showed up and assessed my injury’s and of to hospital I went where they told me I required surgery to repair a open book fractured pelvis and Torn urethra, I broke the Fibular as well but that was minor compared with the pelvis four and half hrs later i was put back to gether with some new hard ware, a long screw (6in) from my R/S into the L/S of the pelvis and a 4in plate at the front fracture 4 screws in that.We got a extended holiday in Florida for another month till I would be able to go back to Canada medivac jet home to the hospital in are city for another two weeks I was wheel chair bound for three months total $19000 plane flight $97000 for the hospital lucky we had extended health care, the next three years would be spent at physio, lawyers, doctors offices, assessments, and shrinks, and so on I am still on the right side of the dirt and thank who ever was lucking over me and all the people who helped me to where I am at today.

  8. advgrrls says:

    Wow David thanks for filling me in…you are one lucky guy and you keep on rolling….so glad things worked out for you…are you all healed? Any issues? That is an amazing survival story!

    • David Burgis says:

      I am about 80% of what I use to be I am like a barometer I can tell you when the weather is going to change, I no longer work as a heavy truck mechanic I do not have the mobility in the groin area, I found out at the hospital that I was Diabetic so I deal with that daily, I have quite a (pill) medication list, but there are lots of people that deal with more tragic things than I have.
      I can still ride a motor cycle and do the things I like to do Travel this great country we live in.

  9. Kathleen Manz says:

    When I was a teen, probably around 12 or 13, I started to read Erma Bombeck’s books. One of my favorites is “Eat Less Cottage Cheese And More Ice Cream Thoughts On Life From Erma Bombeck.” At a very young age I had a list of things I wanted to do when I was big enough to do them. But I think it was the above mentioned book that made me get serious about doing the things on my list. I was afraid of getting to the end of my life having done nothing.
    My list was RVing across the US, riding a motorcycle, kayaking, camping in a tent, Scuba diving, surfing etc. I’ve pretty much done all of things that I listed when I was a little girl and the list has expanded over the years. I got a big kick out of the movie “The Bucket List” when I realized that I had started a bucket list when I was 5 years old.
    You never know when something is going to hit you. A friend of ours contracted spinal meningitis over Christmas break. He’s in very bad shape. He just came out of a coma and his ex-wife said that the only person he recognizes/remembers is their daughter. It is incredible that at 54 he may no longer be able to enjoy life as he used to.
    Most definitely, Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream.

    • advgrrls says:

      a comment with Erma Bombeck in it gets a thumbs up! Great comment Kathleen!

    • Henriette says:

      Kathleen, Yes, for sure more ice cream and less cottage cheese! We women spend so much energy focusing on our looks – as if the world cares if we weigh 60 or 70 kilos. It doesn’t matter! What matters is if we have energy to enjoy life and make the most of what we have. but it’s hard in a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages that says we can only be happy if we look in a certain way.

  10. Jim says:

    My wife of two years is almost 18 years younger than I am and was always telling me to behave myself and act my age. I’m 50 and I love to laugh and sing and make other people laugh. We recently went to my 30th high school reunion and she was shocked to see that over 50 of the 60 classmates that attended looked like they were over 60 years old. The others that ‘aged well’, I remember, were always having fun in their youth and apparently kept it up as adults. My wife has since stopped telling me to change my behavior. She has also begun joining me when I sing. Not a bad life lesson there.

  11. Jacqueline says:

    Love this article! So poignant! Think it’s awesome what y’all are doing–happy trails!

  12. advgrrls says:

    Reblogged this on CHERYL & LESLIE'S MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES and commented:

    Thought this deserved an encore.

  13. We have all but one life on this rock and it is ours to do what we want. Words of wisdom from individuals so close to heavens door will surely give us insight beyond the zany affairs of the world. Thanks for the thoughts.

  14. advgrrls says:

    kelly g very well said and thoughtful….thanks!

  15. janeebanee says:

    Reblogged this on janeebanee and commented:
    I think more young adults should read this to remind themselves to breathe and have a little fun once in a while. All work no fun will make you grumpy old people!

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