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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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. claire

    Beautiful article, very thought provoking. Makes me want to contact everyone I havnt spoken to for a while.

    • Jennifer scott

      Claire you are so right. Triggered the same response

    • Sam

      But I don’t think it’s possible for you to remember them all:)

      • You are right Sam. This is the reason regression hypnotherapy is so effective. The conscious mind can’t remember why you are ill, but the subconscious never forgets. Illness is the subconscious mind’s voice. In hypnosis it’s possible to go back and release these feelings of resentment. Healing follows.

    • Jason

      I can quite happily say that I will have none of those regrets, since I woke up 4 years ago, my life has blossomed

      • Lisa Reynolds

        me neither I’ve no regrets only that I’ve dedicated my life to others until now so that will be gone by the time I die x

      • Im with ya!

      • russ hook

        @Jason, and R U still CONsuming terrorized DEAD ANIMALS every day? How ‘special’ is that Jason?

        • Patrick Parks

          Are you still consuming dead plants? Remember an apple is NOT here for you to eat, it is part of the function of reproduction by the tree that bore it. When you eat one, you are not consuming something which exists for that purpose, you are eating a tree embryo. Life consumes life in order to survive. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING on this earth is here for the consumption of others. But if we want to live, it’s what we have to do. You say animals have the right to live without being eaten by us, well I’d say so does broccoli, so where’s that leave us?

          • skinko

            well actually an apple is designed to be eaten so that the seeds within will not all fall below the tree and hence die due to competing with an already fully grown tree. so an apple was a bad example. try something such as a carrot next time

          • It’s as simple as “life feeds on life, if it has a face or not.”

          • Kalin

            I love your answer and agree with you completely; however, to be a complete slap in the face I believe you need to add something to counter the “plant have no brain argument.”

          • Well put! M’r Parks

          • Sudama Vipra

            Ya know, interesting enough that you have the intelligence to argue against being vegetarian, but do you know where that argument came from? I’ll tell you. God. And do you know where the intelligence to make that argument came from? God. Once again. Everything comes from God and nothing is separate from God. He let’s us see the reality that we want to see. And it is He who let’s us argue against being vegetarian. But guess what He also created? KARMA. :)

          • waltinseattle

            as long as we recognize the taking. ballance of life for life must be recognized. gratitude for our life helps perspective.

          • awesome answer, sir

        • Alexander III

          mmmmmm BACON

        • Steve Jacob

          Russ I’d love to hear the argument that animals are not food as of yet i have not seen any real conclusive proof, only theories. Having said that there is the argument that we use too many resources to produce meat but that is a numbers thing for me and not an point of moral. In nature animals are food but they have a better quality of life whilst they are alive.

        • Russ Hook…..let yourself be free Russ..go ahead and eat a pig!
          They taste really good…

        • Loreniris

          are you on drugs (illegal ones)?

  2. carol

    very nice comments…makes you want to pursue more of your dreams! :)

  3. waltinseattle

    confirms what i heard and pass on. that we dont so much regret things we did, but things we did NOT do.

  4. akshay bheeshma

    atleast now… people have to realize what they have to do with whatever they have…

    • waltinseattle

      no “people” dont. some persons do. they/we are thus obligated to share it with other persons. then “people” will…

  5. This is why I retired from teaching early as I can no longer stay in system and will now touch children’s lives positively outside of the system — also please look at one of the most amazing companies that is ALL about making a positive change in the world — with FUN work —
    I love , love the positive culture of this company — and dreaming again !

  6. Jack Schiff

    #3 is the one that got me.Watch out people !

  7. Good to hear I’am on the right track!

  8. The first one I expected, the others did hold a few surprises though. We all need to pay heed to what this article says and go forth living our lives as ourselves, remove those shackles of fear and strive to be happy, kind and peaceful.

  9. I guess I need the book to understand this; I live in a foreign country.
    I’ll have to abbreviate this. I am writing here in the hope that someone wiser than myself can give me some kind of answer or path
    I am 42 years old.
    1. I have one regret that stands out above all others. It is partially my fault. In ’03, my wife and I got a divorce after years of arguments from hell. About three weeks after she left me, not from cheating or anything like that, just arguing every day, my mother committed suicide. I also regret that I did not do whatever I should have done to stay married, and from what I’ve thought about over and over for a decade now, that I did not just shut up and take the hell my wife was giving me. I used to surf. It was my life. I tell people I stopped because I did in fact break my back in three places, but here on this forum I’m saying the truth for the first time- my ex wife took away my desire for fun. I started some arguments, she started some, we blamed each other for everything. Our son had to live with this from age two to age twelve.
    How do I stop the regret of my divorce? I tried but was too weak, and still am. How do I stop the regret of my mother dying? She was certifiably insane, it was not my fault, but how do I live with this? She never gave me warning, no chance to help her. I knew she was not happy but I had no idea she wanted to kill herself. As far as my divorce, speaking 100% truthfully, it was less my fault. I say that because I did have one girlfriend since our divorce ten years ago, and we lasted a year, and never had a single argument. I ruined things because my ex wife asked to come over for christmas one year, and I was stupid enough to say ok, and to ask my girlfriend who would be my wife by now if I hadn’t. Still, neither of us even considered counseling; it would not have helped me though because my spanish language skills are not good enough anyway. My ex speaks perfect spanish but the counselors don’t. At least psychologists don’t, and I don’t have the money to pay for one that does speak perfect english. I have more regret than I can put into words that I did not know my mom was suicidal, and always will have regret that I could not put up with my wife, that I could not just shut up and take it.
    The one-two punch left me as hollow as a man can be. I could write about #1 for a long time but that’s the gist of it.

    2. As far as work, I only regret that I had been more successful financially as that might have changed everything and made me feel like a normal person. I’ve never worked too hard.

    3. I regret that I let my feelings be known to everyone – my family and my friends. My ex wife never seemed to truly care that I was suffering, she treated me like a human trash can, and still does. She knew how I felt, but I could not take her mental abuse. I was lost. My friends avoided coming over to my house, because who wants to be around a guy who is pissed off and depressed all the time? I don’t blame any of them. I only wish I could help one person in this world based on my own experience. Maybe that would make up for my own bad attitude. I self medicate for my son’s sake. Make of that what you will.

    4. I’ve lost almost all of my real friends because of the person I’ve become and my best friends live in the states, where I can’t just hang out, have a beer and go to the movies or whatever. Nobody in this country wants to come to my house because of the person I’ve become. I don’t want to go to anyone’s house here, and I honestly don’t know why.

    5. I don’t know why, I can’t seem to really laugh anymore. Life for me is not fun, though I live in a place most would call paradise.

    Is there anybody out there?

    • Susan

      Isn’t it sad that not one person dare mention the powerful, healing and life restoring name of Jesus, who is in every place you have been and knows your most intimate pain, sorrow, joy, fears, hopes and dreams! For all the self help books, hypnotists, gurus of all kinds (watch Kumari on netflix if you get the chance), folks are still plagued with suffering of an innermost kind that is only put at peace when Jesus Christ, the son of God is asked into our hearts to make us new, heal and direct our lives. It is in this arena my dear Joseph that you will hear the most success stories of lives, relationships, hearts and spirits restored and given hope that is real again. I pray that you will not easily brush off this comment as some religious radical nut. My life was and continually is transformed by the love, power and peace of Jesus Christ. I have an awful background and had a tough marriage as well. But I have not only been healed of bitterness and anger (as a lifestyle, everyone deals with anger at times…it’s not letting it have control and knowing how to forgive as we have been forgiving!), but I have a hope and a future, here and in the eternal life to come. Find a BIBLE believing and teaching church that loves you and will allow you to tell your story with the intent of restoration. Your heart breaks mine. Turn to Christ and invite Him into your life and heart and just watch what happens…peace, but don’t stop there!! Get connected to the family of God which is HUGE! If you have any questions or just want to talk you can e-mail me God bless you and don’t stay lost…there’s no need!! S.J.

      • ophelia fleming

        Juses is the way!!!

      • liz

        Hi Joe

        5 weeks ago I left the UK to go travelling, not knowing what I needed, I just wanted to be happy and I also felt that my time was running out (not because I’m dying or anything, not as far as I know anyway). I’m 30, I;m single and have no ties or responsibility and my friends and family are all expecting me to settle down and buy a house etc in the UK, so I felt that this is my last chance to travel properly without any ties back home. However, from the moment I started travelling, I hated every moment of it and could sense no joy or happiness, but I did not know the reason for this and I even considered returning to the UK, since I felt that if i wasn’t enjoying travelling then I may as well not go at all. In short I felt lost, but decided against returning home since I did not feel that I would benefit in any way and that I would feel equally lost there also.

        Just over a week ago in Colombia, I stumbled across a guy who told me about his amazing experiences with ayahuasca, a medicine to heal the soul, feeling like I had nothing left to loose and not wanting to live with the pain that I have lived with for as long as I can remember, I gave it ago and since having 2 sessons of ayahuasca last weekend, i feel a lot calmer, still lost but I feel for the first time in my life that there’s ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Make no mistake ayahuasca is no quick fix solution, at least not for me anyway, its painful, you’re likely to relive the pain that you currently feel, plus relive your worst memories and your worst fears, however in time the pain will fade and slowly you should begin to feel good.

        You mentioned money being a problem, I’m not sure how much you have of it, but the 2 sessions cost me £30 (US$50). To me this is the best $50 I have ever spent on myself. After 2 sessions, I feel that I have only begun to scratch the surface of my problems and I’ll probably need some more sessions, so for the time being I will stay in Colombia and learn Spanish and volunteer, whilst working with ayahuasca to overcome my problems. If you need any more info, let me know.

    • Lots of people are out here. Some of us have felt the pain you carry needlessly. Just talk. Talk to someone that is not IN your life so they can give you an objective take on what you need to do to be happy !!

    • Joe, a good place to start is forgiving and accepting yourself. You can’t control others, only yourself and you control your feelings too! Ask yourself “If my brother/sister/best friend was telling me these things, what would my advice be to my loved one?” Take your own advice! We are always harder on ourselves than we are to others and if you looked at yourself as someone whom you love and appreciate, you might be surprised at how your view changes! We are just as deserving of forgiveness and acceptance as everyone else! <3Namaste anBlessed Be!

      • Mare

        Amira Dawn: Your reply is excellent. Just as Christ forgives our sins, so should we forgive ourselves and others. Yes we are all deserving of forgiveness and happiness. Thank you.

    • Scott Gray

      Yes Joseph, there are LOTS of us “out here”! Willing to listen, and help any way we can. I have been through some of the things you mentioned as well, severe depression and loss of friends being chief among them, but I’ve managed to turn my life around to a great extent, and it is VERY refreshing and empowering. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible. If you ever need/want an ear to listen to you, I will do what I can to help you or just to listen if you need to vent. You may email me at: Take care of yourself, and let your soul Shine On…

    • Tom

      Hey mate. I won’t go too into my situation but I too live away from my home country and have been depressed and regretful in life. One thing that helped me was getting back in the water. Surfing is so good and can heal the heart & soul. It’s a great time for thinking and it just gives a positive energy as you might recall. Get back in the water and wash off all that regret. Have fun and enjoy life. ONe day at a time. . . That’s your true self medication.

    • Maya

      Joe let me tell you… Happiness is the journey not the destination… What is your journey what are you looking for??? If you want to chat you can email me as well.

    • Kathy

      Please look up “THE SECRET” by Rhonda Byrne. Also look up ABRAHAM/HICKS material on You Tube. Also look up anything by BYRON KATIE on You Tube. Also look up ” Zero Limits” by Joe Vitale. You need help immediately for your own sake, but especially for your dear son. I hope you take my advice.

    • Christian

      Yes, Joe. There’s someone out here. Email me at Let’s talk this through.

  10. waltinseattle

    joe. you have taken the first steps admittimg to yourself. doing the inventory. the alcoholics.anonymous program works formany conditions. we adult children of alcoholics use it very well
    many there also had mentaly ill parents…or both…and we all start recovering as you are. dont rush. dont get down on you by setting timelines. stay honest. one day at a time should be a constant thought. reward yourself with a pat on the back every evening. youre still breathing so it could be worse.

    you cant change the past but how you think about it is up to you. how you identify yourself today and tomorrow is up to you. you are not just your history. you are the product of your courage and imagination..
    call it will. inhabit what you want to become. but do it in the now. be present in every second of your own personal transformation.

    keep in touch. youre in our minds and hearts

  11. cldysw

    Should the spiritual exists other than being verifiable by a very tiny minority who are not into Religion & Religiosity, oka the belief systems of the blind-blinded, then, not being able to uncover its existence is not only the true regret for most, then, most are merely born to die. Regardless of all that went on between birth and death. Regardless and without one single exception.

    It is wise and benevolent to realise that Reality is Self/Empowerment/The Kinetic/Femininity with Others’ Reality being one’s Relativity/Knowledge/Potential/Masculinity. The miracle for humans then is that Knowledge is always accepted as Its Empowerment. No wonder that when a human looks into “Outer Space”, he will always try to own the concept of infinity, a impossibility if only because Infinity is when self realises The Spiritual, oka The Self.

    • Susan

      Do you even understand your own gobbledy-gook? Seriously, Wake up and get out of the cultlike nonsense that you’re trying to give yourself peace with. It makes no sense and if you did any study at all (even of the infinite universe about you) of the extreme complexities of life in all of its forms you would find it impossible NOT to believe there is a creator. And if we go that far then would it be too much to say that one who would be so creative as to make the entire universe (don’t mention the outdated “big bang”) as well as our human magnificent bodies that far surpass any of the greatest developments our brightest scientists, computer geeks and engineers could come up with, would also be not only be able to, but desire to have a personal relationship with the ones He created! Of course He does. There should be nothing to be afraid of for the “searching” mind and soul to check out Jesus and ask Him to come into your heart, show that he is real. Your spirit longs for this because that what all your searching has been about. Please don’t stay misled and never give the truths of God’s word a chance. Thanks for reading! Be blessed!!

      • deetsw

        I don’t find it impossible not to believe. I find it impossible to understand why people have to sit on the opposite sides of the argument, holding on to their own beliefs as though if they ease their hold on them just enough to look over the fence, they would lose them altogether. We have responsibilities to ourselves and our society that have nothing to do with beliefs. To blindly accept what happens because faith/science/others have seemingly made it so, is to fail as a human.
        Pretty sure if there is a greater ‘power’ out there he is pretty sick of our inability to fix ourselves by this point.

  12. anonymous

    David Icke is 61 today. There is a beautiful tribute to him by Orion Lion on his website.

    Check it out. Much love to you Joe.


  13. lisa

    Never could ‘spell it out’ for people like that. All I could ever say is “I’m not the same person I once was”

  14. James

    #1 means getting rid of religion. If that’s a regret for people stop being religious!

    • waltinseattle

      more than religion gets people to live as otherswould have them live. living with others is the root as nahual and taoists traditions are well aware. growing up is learning to accomodate. to accomodate is to loose personal power. no were not talling infantile romanticism or psychopathy!

  15. “#6 I wish I hadn’t spent the last few minutes of my life talking about regrets.” – My Hubby

    • What will you do if you have only 24hours to live

  16. Nice article and very inspiring. Certainly made me think again today.

    But thinking about it too much might also become a regret. :)

    Keep them coming!

  17. people who do not believe. they should be looking forward not back:)

  18. I worked as a hospice nurse for a year and a half. I found also that those consistently most afraid of dying were “born again” Christians. Interesting–because most of the other nurses noted the same thing–we talked about it from time to time. Those with metaphysical beliefs or no beliefs seemed to do better facing death.

    • That’s what I don’t get about most “born again Christians.” If you truly believe you will go to a better place, and are right with God, why be afraid of death? You should look forward to it! (not saying to commit suicide or find someone to kill you, just natural death)

      In my experience, usually the mere mention of death, such as saying “I wish I could just die today and go to heaven,” sends most “Christians” into a panic. They start telling me all about how it’s ungodly to think that way.

      I think they are afraid because they didn’t live the life they preached. That is the problem.

      • Mare

        I don’t agree, Javier. It’s a healthy fear, such as we “fear” getting married, or having a baby or beginning a new job. I’m a Christian and know lots of others who are not afraid of death, but rather “fear” leaving their loved ones.
        There is no perfect Christian, and many do not come near to living the Christian life as they believe; however, we all must answer for our attitudes, neglects, and sins on Judgment Day. Most true Christians attempt to live Christ-like lives. It’s not an easy road (as the hymn goes); it’s an uphill battle. But the rewards will be worth the trip.
        God bless you.

  19. Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell when they die….
    Spirituality is for people who have already been there…

  20. I’m dead. I only regret not dying sooner.

  21. Dan Flynn

    How about i wish i never started smoking?

  22. Johnny Neverstar

    I’m 34 and I can honestly say the only regret I have is that I don’t have the courage to cheat on my girlfriend. I love her but I would like to make love to other women occasionally. Otherwise I’m very happy. I’m sure the biggest regret in my death bed will be the fact that I never slept with that a black woman.

    • AMH

      Johnny, I find your identification of how you regret not being able to cheat on your girlfriend and sleep with a black woman, abhorrent! Your comments point to a sick, shallow personality! #1 – glorifying cheating on someone you say you love is disgusting! #2 – wanting to sleep with someone based on the colour of her skin, is disrespectful of women and shows your complete self-gratification focus! Get some counselling!

      • Sheela Nobleza

        I agreed so much with what you had said about that Johnny Neverstar’s comments! thumbs up!

      • GP1

        No problem.Maybe yourgirl friend would like to sleep with a black guy.Why don’t you talk it over with her.


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