Avoid Deathbed Regrets

What will you regret when you’re dying? Bronnie Ware knows. Bronnie was a palliative care nurse in Australia, caring for people during their last days or weeks of life. She saw, and heard, the regrets of the dying, and she found a few were almost universal. Below are the top five regrets and my comments on each one. If you want to read more on this, see the book link at the bottom.

Dead woman with folded hands and flowers © nielskiim | stock.adobe.com

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
    The number one regret of the dying is they lead a life chosen and dictated by others. I think women get hit by this one far worse than men. Everyone has an opinion on who you should be and what you should do, and a lot of folks will get rather rude or downright nasty if you fail to comply.
    God made you a unique person with a specific set of gifts. He gave you a life to live; a life intended to bless you and others. Living any life other than the one He meant is bad for you and robs others of what God intended. Living the life someone else wants you to live may save you some hassle, but it’s bad for you, bad for others, and it puts you out of the will of God!
    Don’t buy into the lie that sacrificing your goals, desires, and dreams is the mature, selfless thing to do. God gave you those things, and it wasn’t so you could sacrifice them on the altar of other people’s desires!
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
    This one is more common for men than for women and felt more strongly by men. But many women do express this regret. Sure hard work is good, but only to a point. Our society worships workaholicism and rejects the balanced life the Bible tells us to live. Among other things, too much work means not enough time for relationships, and God’s very big on relationships!
    Be aware of this for yourself, and also help your husband with this issue. Less is more in this area, and the sooner you both learn to live that the better your lives and marriage will be.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
    This is another regret women feel more strongly. Our society still expects women to get along, go along, and never rock the boat. Doing this requires biting your tongue and burying your feelings lest you be seen as “that kind of woman.”
    I don’t envy the position women have on this one. A man expresses a feeling with passion and he’s brave. If a woman does the same thing she is likened to a female dog. It’s not fair and you will get slammed for it, but I think that’s better than regretting your silence as you die.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
    Study after study finds long-term relationships mean longer, healthier lives. Staying in touch with friends benefits you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And if they’re good friends it benefits your marriage too.
    Modern life makes staying connected difficult, but modern technology can help a lot. We find Skype (or any other video connection) is far superior to phone calls and emails. Make time to connect with friends, it’s vital!
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
    “Let myself” – how brilliant is that? As Bronnie says, “Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.” I know folks in horrible circumstances who are happier than most folks living in great circumstances. In truth your circumstances have little to do with how happy you are.

~ Paul – I’m XY and I don’t want my wife to regret anything a the end!

Resource: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing

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7 Comments on “Avoid Deathbed Regrets

  1. Good points.

    I got past the issue of deathbed regrets using two methods –

    1) I made myself realize that regrets were futile, and could only mar the present. What’s done, is done. As Omar Khayyam said,

    The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on.
    Not all you piety nor your wit will lure it back to cancel half a line
    Nor your tears wash out a word of it.

    2) Regrets and “if only” are a form of ungratefulness for that good which did come in one’s life. to wish a changed past would alter the present. There would be other ‘good’ things, surely, but not THESE good things that I can see…which did and do have value.

    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 189 – Personality ChangesMy Profile

    • @Andrew Budek-Schmeisser – You amaze me, my friend. I hope I’d act similarly in your situation, but I really don’t know. And if it’s okay with you I’d rather not find out!
      Regrets are a waste of time and energy, but most of us struggle with them all the same.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Equality is a LieMy Profile

    • Wow. Your second point. Regrets are in essence a lack of gratitude. Good stuff.

  2. How fitting a post. I am currently in a situation where I have been challenged to have no regrets, regardless of what happens.
    My biggest struggle. #5. And that is what God has been working with me on, in what could be the most crushing of circumstances.

  3. Wow. I think I struggle with number 5 the most. I used to be a very happy woman, but have let others dictate how I feel. Guess I need to stop that, and choose to be happy.

    However, I’ve often wondered if one day my husband will say “gee, I wish I’d worked even more and screamed at my wife even more.” Or if he’d regret those things at all. But asking him that would be disrespectful, so I keep my mouth shut.

    Interesting post.

    • I don’t think it is disrespectful to point that out matter-of-factly. Sometimes we have to say it straight. My husband speaks fluent sarcasm and I now matter of factly say, “I don’t appreciate the sarcasm.”

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