Recently, through the experiences and the work of Bronnie Ware, ‘the 5 regrets of the dying’ has become a point of discussion. It should be stated that these are not new ideas; they have been understood throughout the centuries and passed down from one generation to the next. Denial, fear, anger, remorse, blame, more denial and eventually acceptance is a journey that is familiar to those facing their mortality. The words used over the centuries and within different cultures may be different but the themes have in fact remained the same. It’s interesting to note that sometimes to be happy we have to look through the eyes of those who are dying. As a result we are then able to better see our selves and our own lives.
Below are the 5 most common themes that Bronnie’s experience illuminated. When you research this topic you see that these themes come up again and again whatever period of history you look at. We humans haven’t changed that much....
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 have not honoured even half of their dreams and sadly die knowing that this is due to choices they have made, or more often, 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 hadn’t worked so hard.
This is particularly true of the male population. Often they feel that they have missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women do also speak of this regret.
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. This is something we should all seriously think about.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settle for a mediocre existence and never become who they are truly capable of becoming. Many develop illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carry 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 people do not fully realise the true value of friendships until they’re dying and it is not always possible to do anything about it at that point. Many become so caught up in their own lives that they let precious friendships slip by over the years. In the final stages there are many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserve.
It is common for many with a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your mortality, 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 most importance at that time. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to even manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common regret. Many people do not realise until the end that happiness is a choice they can make. Sadly they remain stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflows into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change has them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they are content when deep within, they long to laugh heartily and to have some silliness in their lives again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. It’s a shame that we should wait until that moment to realize it’s what we think of ourselves that matters most. It’s pursuing the song of our own hearts that will bring the greatest meaning and purpose to our lives. It’s time to learn these lessons now, whilst we’re alive and to not wait until we are facing our own mortality....
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Also see: The benefits of gratitude