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Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Guest post by Bronnie Ware

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 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.


Based on this article, Bronnie has now released a full-length book, titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed by the regrets of dying people. The book may be ordered through bookstores worldwide or from Balboa Press. It is also available via the link on this page. Details for wholesale orders may be found on Bronnie’s official website.

About Dubie Bacino

Always on the lookout for new, original and innovative, Dubie loves spotting upcoming trends in cyber culture, discovering useful tools and innovative start-ups and inventions. To the Google+ crowd, she is known as the curator of stunning photography.


  1. I have been near death many,many times, with a weak heart. My regrets have little to do with these five. I have had the great fortune, to accomplish all the five mentioned. I know why old acquaintances fade away, There are many,many varied adult reasons. My regrets are always based on the lack of communion with the familiar. The moving into a certain, but unfamiliar world. a world of no return, a world of endless and inextinguishable, unity with the universe as a whole. The loss of individualism, and probably consciousness. I have yet to actually lose consciousness. I am always conscious , even though i am at death’s door. I selected a spot, in infinity wherein i will haunt the energies of the cosmos for eternity, if i miss my reincarnation window. Amazingly it is only a half a block away. I can see my landmark from my front porch. I pass it a dozen or more times daily. sometimes more than that.

    I CAN TELL YOU ALL, FROM EXPERIENCE: That which you percieve now as environment, and thereby not yourself, is what you become, when you die. You become the environment much the same way as oxygen binds you to the environment now. In much the same way as light binds your eyes, and sound your ears, and he way you can feel the wind, and smell the odors, and taste the flavors on the wind. ONE OF MY FAVORITE MEMORIES HAPPENED JUST THE OTHER DAY.:

    It was spring, hot, and the honeysuckles were ripe. The warm air was stiflingly sweet, and thick with the odor of honeysuckle, (my favorite odor and flavor),. The air was so thick with the sweet odor, i could actually taste the nectar of the sweet blossoms. The slight droning of the machinery in the yard was the soundtrack, and the light was tinted by my blueblocker sunglasses. If i should ever encounter this after death, i would be certain i was alive


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