Tuesday, 2 October 2012

To Die without Regret

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, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called 'The Top Five Regrets of the Dying'. Bronnie Ware realised while working with terminally ill patients and she shares the five most common regrets the dying have.

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 3 to 12 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 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.
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.


  1. Very inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights :)

  2. am sharing this in my fb...thanks:)

  3. sigh.. seriously.. can see myself saying these words...

  4. I am not going to let myself say this..what was said about health is the one I appreciate most. Really, when health deteriorates there is pretty much nothing left in us.

  5. Wonderful! Wish we don't wait for death to come knocking at our doors to realize these truths of life.

  6. Hmmmm.... Me thinks some people I know need to read it a couple more times.

    BTW, did u just sum her entire book into one post. Who will read Bronnie Ware book now. Not me! Chuckle! chuckle!

  7. Deeply moving. The last few lines sums it up all....Thanks for sharing it N

  8. Had heard of the book, but never read it. Beautiful insights - echo others in thanking you for this beautiful synopsis.

    While each of the 5 points resonate completely, 2 is particularly dear to me. I don't know why career persons do this, but they do insane sacrifices for organisations that care two hoots anymore. Just read in the papers that Marissa Mayer the CEO of Yahoo, gave birth to her son on Sunday and was working from Monday. On one hand I admire her and on the other hand wonder if she is not the perfect candidate for 2.

  9. excellent post nancy!..I wish we could do all that..

  10. 1. I am already living a life that I want to live.

    2. Oh, I never work so hard :)

    3. My previous comments on this blog are the best testimony for this.

    4. I wish I do not stay in touch with my friends, except the rare phone calls. Seriously. I don't have so much time to waste!

    5. I don't let anything come in between me and happiness. Even sadness comes to elevate the levels of happiness that I am shortly going to face :)

    4/5 - Not a bad score, huh? :)

    Destination Infinity

  11. nice one, thanks for sharing! :)

  12. For once, I might have to disagree - yeah, this is all fine, but what comes to my mind now is "Day by day thou art making me worthy of Thy full acceptance by refusing me ever and anon from perils of weak and uncertain desire"...

    The 5 points listed are more for appeal in the worldly sense, but isn't life about journeying from I to We. Finding the God in us and in others...

    Whether I look forward for my life or my death, I will look forward to seeing Him, and to me a life not truly lived is a life that does not have Him in the picture :)

    I am reminded of a song that I learnt in my college- "Love it was that made us... and it was love that saved us... love was God's plan, when He made man... God's divine nature is love... born of God's love, we must love Him... Thats why He made us to love Him... and only when... we love all men... can we partake of God's love... where there is peace, there is love, where there is love, there is god..."

    ps. sorry did i get too spiritual here?? couldn't help it!! :D

  13. I wholeheartedly agree with the third point... It is better to not have a particular relationship, if having that in your like chokes you and make you breathless..

  14. Fantastic points to ponder, before I reach to the end...particularly the one where it says that I need to express my feelings as it is...thats something I need to work on!

    Congrats on the Spicy Saturday Pick, Nancy!!!

  15. Thanks for sharing.. It is not quite easy to work on these things but we can try at least so that the guilt feeling is less when dying ;)

  16. I think someone should feed this article into those fresh corporate minds planning on pilling as much money as they want. Liked and shared

  17. So nice to come back to blogging after ages to such inspiring posts....I have missed visiting:)

  18. Thanks for sharing. Comes as a reality check when you're getting bogged down by mundane issues.

  19. Chech - i was just checking the song lyrics with my band friends, for i learnt this from 'em... n i missed a line in there... if n wen we meet - along with my gang, we will sing it for you :) awesum song that is :)

    so here is how it ends starting from the partake part of it, "...can we partake of God's luv... Luv is a wonderful thing, joy to all hearts it will bring... Whr thr z Luv thr z god, whr thrz god thr z luv..."

    ps. where r u? hi time that u r back to comment :)

  20. That was such a beautiful post, Nance, and so very inspiring!

    Coming here after a long time, and I'm so glad I read this! Been having a pretty erratic blog-life, so have missed out on reading a lot of posts.

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts!

  21. I have read this one too, Nancy
    What struck me the most is the first one. Learnt it a little late in life, unless you are happy with yourself, it is very difficult to make others happy. We try to adjust to so many people and situations, losing sight of whe we are on the way, getting frustrated and taking it out on our loved ones. Live your life your way without hurting those that truly matter to you, life automatically turns more peaceful:-)


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