The Regrets of the Dying


Listen to The Regrets of the Dying

Most of us don’t dwell on the notion of our own mortality very often, because we believe that we have plenty of time to worry about it later. As we grow older, the thought of death may enter our minds occasionally, but we still don’t take it seriously, because there are still many miles on the clock. Right? Well, while we all live with the hopes of seeing tomorrow, we’ve only ever really got today.

Bronnie Ware is a nurse in Australia who has spent more than a decade counselling people who are dying. During this time, she has been recording some of the biggest regrets people have on their final hours.  She has recorded the most common regrets people have and put them in her aptly titled book The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.

Below is the list of the top 5 regrets she uncovered, along with an excerpt from the book.

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 theirselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.’


Bronnie Ware: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, Amazon, 20 Mar. 2012.

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