Photo By: Krissy Copyright “Sabino Creek”
With the latest news about Dick Clark’s sudden passing and all the sadness that comes along with losing an inspiring legend; it really got me thinking about life and all the little things we take for granted, including the regrets we carry around and how that will affect us when that final moment of our own life arrives.
In an inspiring blog called, Inspiration and Chai by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients during their last weeks of life. Bronnie recorded the dying patient’s epiphanies which inspired her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
The topic itself sounds gloomy but it actually motivated and inspired me once I read about the phenomenal clarity that people gain at the end of their lives and how we all can benefit from their vision and insight. If it’s a common theme that 99.9% of people reported going through the same regrets on their death bed, that seems significantly relevant and speaks volumes about how the majority of us are NOT living our lives to the fullest! It further suggests that we need to open up our eyes and start changing our attitudes and incorporating change in our lives now! We still have a chance to change our futures! Everyday is a chance, a new beginning, a day to rejoice in doing what it is we really want to instead of waste it on regret that we may not even be aware of yet!
Luckily, we are of the fortunate who are not yet faced with our own mortality, but the reality is; we will have to face it head on some day! The question becomes, “Why wait until that defining moment when we must make our final peace with our life and our creator before changing the course of our lives now?” Everyone has the capacity for change and growth, don’t underestimate yourself! In the Kübler-Ross model, The Five Stages of Grief: 1) Denial 2) Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance, we all must go through these stages before we accept that final moment. As a relief to all of us, Bronnie reports that all her patients reached acceptance and peace before departing this earth despite their regrets.
Below are the top five regrets of the dying:
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 honored 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 realize, 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.
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 realize 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 realize 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.
It is simply stated for us in these 5 common regrets that Bronnie reports in her blog and book. It doesn’t matter if we are living a life as fascinating and glamorous as Dick Clark’s, “The Never Aging Man” or whether we are living a common life of hard work! The point is that we all have a choice on how we live our life. We may not always have the breaks or advantages of others but we ALWAYS have a CHOICE! We can choose how we deal with: unfair advantages, disappointments, broken promises, bad relationships, horrible bosses, negativity, financial loss, greed and many other details of life. The important thing is that we pay attention to how we ARE living our lives now and compare our feelings with those on the top 5 regrets list and see how we relate? It’s essential we make it a priority to start seeing that everything we do is a choice! We may not always like our choices but they are ours! We have the opportunity now to start seeing what is really important instead of focusing on all the small, minor details that cause us to veer off track from our paths! This is your unique journey, no one else’s but take solace in knowing that we are all human and we all feel similarity while living and when dying.
You can choose to make a pact with yourself, think about all the regrets you feel now, make an effort to try turning those around and rejoice instead. There are ways to make things right when you fear they cannot be undone. Some things cannot but you can choose to make peace with it for yourself!
Remember, no regrets, only heartfelt rejoice!