The Top 5 Regrets of The Dying

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handA palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying and put her findings into a book called ‘The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.’ It’s not surprising to see what made the list as they are all things that touch each of our lives as we struggle to pay attention to and make time for things that we truly love. Below is the list of each regret along with an excerpt from the book.  At the bottom is also a link to the book for anyone interested in checking it out.

One thing on regret before we get to the list. It’s important to remember that whatever stage we are at in life, there is no need for regret. The process of regret is one that provides nothing but suffering for ourselves as we begin to allow the past to dictate how we should feel now. Instead, we can use the past as a reference point to understand what adjustments we would like to make moving forward. The adjustments do not have to come out of pain, sorrow, regret or judgment, but simply a choice to do things in a different way. We are learning all the time, we can very quickly slow that learning process down by getting stuck in the idea of regret. When it comes to making changes, be at peace with the past and remember that each moment is a new choice.

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


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More From 'Consciousness'

CE provides a space for free thinkers to explore and discuss new, alternative information and ideas. The goal? Question everything, think differently, spread love and live a joy filled life.

  1. Bea

    Aww beautiful. I’m going to hold these very dear to my heart .

  2. “And so become yourself because the past is just a goodbye.”

  3. The singular obstacle to thinking outside the box is the model that defines how we are educated. The one that has molded our thinking is a product of the empire and colony building that drove resource use centuries ago. Closer to present day, industrialization required the same easily manageable population to carry out the work detail of the ruling class, that the now obsolete Victorian model provided. I suggest our needs in the 21st Century require a population better able to think critically based in the knowledge we have since gained.

    Psychology has only recently given us an understanding of who we are intellectually that disputes the nature vs. nurture argument, appreciating that whole human development represents both. We have evolved from the intelligence that preceded our arrival on the Earth. Ecology reflects the inter-dependent, inter-relatedness of man on a diverse planet. And we are genetically recombined air, water and soil product molecules.

    The 21st Century shift in pedagogy reflecting all of our wisdom is an Earth based education model. By giving every child at every grade level a real world, hands on, multi-sensory, inter-disciplinary experience at every grade level in each community’s natural settings, led by educational specialists, we will relate state learning objectives with our childrens’ innate relationship to the Earth of which we are made. In this way, by supporting each aspect of a bi-polar intelligence, we will be raising the whole child, empowered and less easily manipulated to the whims of others.

    • waltinseattle

      gee, you think some of us didnt wake up a long while back, with that “only recently..” stuff and a “21st cent shift” as if the empire had dominion in all places and times before your “now”? welcome aboard, but please, do learn to be self reliant and not a retypist. I went thru some of that, after a while all that stuff you read is not informative, but merely shows you’re not alone in what you have, all by your own, come to understand. Be your own mapmaker, you have it, I see it. and btw your education is a blend of Maria Montessori with a smidgen of Waldorf/steiner and the shift is a return to what we have had for over 50,000 years.

      that box was a transitory blip

  4. James Heffernan

    That’s good to know as today I am criticized for doing all of those things. I look up friends from 35 years ago, lead a strange weird life, work hard when I need to but have no problem with taking time off either.

    Thanks, I’m on track.

  5. Well since you do have access to the internet Jacqui you can start with that and just start looking for a why out of your situation. In life we have to make choices and sometimes those choices are not the right ones. But we don’t just stop and not exist any more, we have to pick ourself up and brush ourself off and put one foot in front of the other and make a better choice this time. Thru God everything is possible, I am a true believer in God cause when I was only months old, the doctors told my mother to have my final resting place ready cause I wouldn’t make it. I’m 62 now and still alive and only thru my Grandma Cochran doing what the Lord told her to do ~ ~ Get on your knees and pray for her and I will heal your grandchild. And my grandmother did and that nite I was eating whole milk ice cream where as before I could only keep down something like a diluted goats milk. So yes you can! get some determinations and put it in motion but first give it all over to the Lord. He knows what you’re going thru and He will help you get out of but you first have to turn it all over to Him and ask Him for his help and guide along your way. I will pray for you and if you would like to contact me send me friends request on facebook. Patricia Hinds in Arkansas. God go with you in your journey and keep you safe. Only you and God can make you happy and set you free.

  6. Glo

    On the other side of the coin 5 blessings I enjoyed – my Mother (who never complained, never boasted, never held a grudge, never gave up, never criticized) my Father who loved my Mother, respected her and was her partner 50/50 in work and in the home way before their time.
    My husband, The God that gave me them and this beautiful planet and lastly friends where all my learning has come from and sons who’ve given me Grandchildren.
    I have no regrets.

  7. Sandy

    I wish I could have stayed longer and built a time machine.

  8. Being a Hospice nurse lets you see and hear things that really make you think.

  9. I got lucky and once had a job interviewing hundreds of seniors each month. Their insights into life, their ability to speak their mind openly and honestly taught me a lot about myself. Reading this excerpt reminded me of how much I respect those folks that are life years ahead of me.

  10. Tricia

    Good work Joe Martino. I think it’s a list everyone should read and think a little about.

  11. Winkleman

    Yes, Happiness is a choice. If you don’t realize this start searching for the answer of why you don’t.

  12. Judy Martin

    I think I regret most is not keeping My kids close & in church a prayer home

  13. susan stoll

    Do not look back, we can not change the past Look to the future but do not dwell on it or the past, Live for today Enjoy your children and be thankful for your health and trust in the Lord for he is with us always.

  14. diane

    Helps put your own life into perspective and face what you really need to do… may be time to stop the procrastination…

  15. Isabella

    I hope we can get to the point at which we feel no regrets when we die, unless we have hurt our children and other innocent persons in some way that can’t be fixed. Forgive yourself. Forgive the other denizens of this beautiful but difficult planet. If you find yourself somewhere else after you die, be kinder and have more fun…

    • Top 10 regrets-paying attention to all you a$$hol3s sonow I’m homeless, broke and on welfare and about to commit suicide.!

      • Linden Pike

        But with a computer and WiFi?

        • um…you can be homeless, broke, on welfare, suicidal, and with access to a computer and wifi. I KNOW CUZ IM IN THE SAME BOAT THANKS!

          • suicide is never a good answer and things are never totally hopeless. You can access computers in many libraries so homes and wireless are not necessary. If you are on welfare you aren’t totally broke but you are very nearly. there are places to look for ways out of your problems try accessing charity organizations in your area. try helping others if only to find their way around etc. sometimes out of the action of doing things for others you find a way to help yourself. Remember the enemy of everyone is despair.

        • I guess you have never heard of a smartphone Linden? But thanks for the kindness and consideration to a person in distress!

      • Athena Hall

        You appear to be blaming others for your decisions. Life is what you make it. You can come back from this. Remember that in life, you can’t be happy unless you’ve known sadness, and you can’t be sad unless you’ve known happinness. How boring would life be if we experienced neither? We learn from our sadness – it is necessary to experience this in order to be able to have personal growth. You can either move on from this and find a way out – i.e., learn from your mistakes, ask for help and move onto something better, or you can wallow in your sadness and pointlessly kill yourself. Appreciate that life is a gift (you may not see this now, but you will later), accept your current situation, and set about finding ways to move out of it. Don’t give up. You have more strength inside you than you realise. I’ve been there myself, and am still poor. But for the first time in my life, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I am moving forward. Things are happening for the first time for me. Believe me, it’s possible. When you get there, you will know what it is to appreciate how lucky you are to be here. Give yourself the chance to experience this. The other alternative is such a waste of a life that could have been good.

        • Life is a wonderfull gift given to us by god, recently on my 20/2013 my family and I buried my mother 2and half month later I watched my brother slowly suffer and died also , it was a blow
          for the entire family, we have to heal from this tragedy , our familys are left to remember and my mother and brothers don’t have the same problem any more as we do and that is trying to live so I agree with the above statement we must not wallow in sadness but learn how to live .

      • Tony Hungerford

        Have you chosen a spot yet? Will it be while sitting on your pity-pot? Sounds to me that blaming others for your problems has become a finely-honed weapon for you. Any thoughts given to those that love you, and will feel real pain because of your actions ? Ever thought to ask God to help guide you out of the hole you are now in? God created everything..holes included…is it possible He may be a tad sharper than you? Give Him a try. What can you lose ??

    • denis eirikis

      I agree. The preface stating that regrets serve no purpose but suffering is false. Regrets are way-finders, essential in our journeys. Here on the 29th anniversay of my own near death experience, my entire spiritual journey can be summed up as trying my hardest to live one day at a time and arriving at my death bed with few regrets as possible.

  16. John Coleman

    1(a). I wish I paid more tax…

  17. Maria

    Thank you. Good advice.

  18. Thank you for doing this article. Really spoke to me

  19. sachal bhatti

    regret is social value we can not neglect it.

  20. I will not die with these regrets… I am living my life on purpose.

  21. Ann Francis

    I regret there is only one list made by one nurse’s gatherings – might be quite different if we got maybe 10 or 20 listings – with accompanying prejudices, seems I could have written this book to make money but I have no expertise – you see I’m not a nurse, just live life amongst people on a daily basis!

  22. samjo27

    The one that hit me was “lost contact with old friends” as ironically I’m just talking to someone I haven’t heard from in about six years… I think the internet makes it a lot easier to stay in contact with old friends though, so hopefully in future generations that one won’t become so much of a regret. that said it has made me want to message quite a few people I’ve not spoken to in a long time tonight… If only I had the time to spend talking to them without the babies/life getting in the way

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