Nurse Reveals the Top 5 Regrets People Express on Their Deathbeds

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 realize 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.

About the author:

Bronnie Ware is the author of the best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, released worldwide, with translations in 27 languages. She also runs an online personal growth and song-writing course, has released two albums of original songs, and writes a well-loved blog. Bronnie’s newest book, Your Year for Change: 52 Reflections for Regret-Free Living, was released in October 2014.

Bronnie’s previous work has included mixing cocktails on a tropical island, management in the banking sector, caring for dying people, teaching song writing to prisoners, and a few things in between.  She is now an author, personal growth facilitator, and speaker. Bronnie lives in NSW, Australia.

Check out more of Bronnie’s work  at


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